What is love? (as Howard Jones asked in a song in the ’80s)

One thing that always haunts me is when, recalling something that I am sure I have read in one of my books, I am completely unable to remember exactly where. But, sometimes, I begin to pull the thread of an idea and I find the quotation.

Yesterday, thinking about a conversation I had with a friend, I remembered a mythological story about the definition of love and the idea that somewhere there is someone that fits you perfectly. Which reminds me also something that I invented when I was a child (I’ve always thought that the life of people without imagination must be a very boring one): there was an opposite of me somewhere in the world. That is, when I was sad, she was happy, when I got good votes she had bad ones, and so on. This “another me”, being my complete opposite, had quite an unhappy childhood and started to get good votes just around sixteen. Just once I wanted to swap completely my life with hers, in my particular “annus terribilis”, 1986. But anyway, the purpose of this post is not to forget for a while this story, Aristofanes’ definition of love in Plato’s Symposium, which I had in “I Grandi Miti Greci” (The Great Greek Myths) by Luciano di Crescenzo. As you will read, Plato, thousands of years ago, had a more open minded idea of love than many people today. All blame on the clumsy translation is exclusively mine.

“In the beginning of time, humankind was formed by beings of three sexes: male, female and another bizarre kind called the androgenes, which had both sexes at the same time. All these beings were double with respect to us, that is, they had four arms, four legs, four eyes and so on; and every one of them had two genital organs, both masculine in men, feminine in women and the androgenes had one male and one female.

They walked four legged and could move in all directions, as spiders do. They had a terrible character: a superhuman strength, a superhuman superb up to the point to challenge the Gods as if they were equal. Zeus, particularly, was very upset with them, and wanted to punish them but not to kill them, as he didn’t want to lose the sacrifices, but he had to react to their misbehavior. After thinking about it for a while, one day he decided to split them in two, so as every one of them had just two legs and one genital organ; and he menaced them that should they continue on their impiety he would have split them again and make them walk with just one leg. After the “surgery”, even if Apollo healed up their wounds, men became unhappy as every one of them missed their other half, the half-men looked for the half-men, the half-women desired the half-women, and the male half of the androgines sought desperately their female half. Therefore, in order to find back their lost happiness, every one of them longed to reunite with their twin soul. And this longing is called Love.”

5 thoughts on “What is love? (as Howard Jones asked in a song in the ’80s)

  1. Reblogged this on Wormwood Scrubs and commented:

    I’ve written this post in March, and I feel now the need to reblog it. Probably Wrodpress will ask me to add more tags. How comfortable we feel with labels, they’re so useful. In a world in which time is gold a tag helps you to save time in thinking with your own brain. Grab a label from a group and glue it where it is needed. Tags are useful but also unfair. And we do not care. I don’t want not to care. I hate labels because, most of the times, they hurt like daggers.

  2. I love this story about the Opposite. But it is sad that for you to be happy, she has to be miserable! Sounds like a good topic for a piece of fiction.

    1. As a child not used to pain I guess I invented this as a scapegoat for the moments I started to learn that live could be also painful. Yes, I must confess that this was my first ever fanfic 😉

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