soul mate /ˈsəʊlˌmeɪt/ n: a person with whom one has a strong affinity, shared values and tastes, and often a romantic bond. [Example:] I married my soul mate; you don’t get much luckier than that.
The existence of a soul mate—a being that complements your very essence, that challenges your growth, that loves you fiercely—has been challenged and critiqued for centuries. Perhaps one of the loveliest (and some argue most comical) explanations for the source of our deep connection to one another was written over 2,000 years ago.
Aristophanes depicts a time when the gods lashed out at our previous human form in Plato’s The Symposium. In his description, physical mutilation results in a perpetual yearning for our missing half. Once discovered, we comply with the inexplicable compulsion to never let go:
“…the primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and the same number of feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond. He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted to run fast. …
[Zues] said: ‘Methinks I have a plan which will enfeeble their strength and so extinguish their turbulence; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more profitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg.’…
And [now] when one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and one will not be out of the other’s sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together, and yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover’s intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment.”
Whatever the case, a true soul mate’s existence or not, I wish you that kind of love—the love that sends us tumbling, yearning and falling into the deepest intimacy and affection.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel