June 23, 2012 § 25 Comments
Once upon a time, Aristophanes relates, there were gods in the heavens
and humans down on earth. But we humans did not look the way we looked today.
Instead we each had two heads and four legs and four arms- a
perfect melding, in other words, of two people joined together,
seamlessly united into one being. We came in three different possible
gender or sexual variations: male/female meldings, male/male meldings,
and female/female meldings, depending on what suited each creature the
best. Since we each had the perfect partner sewn into the very fabric
of our being, we were all happy. Thus, all of us double-headed,
eight-limbed, perfectly contented creatures moved across the earth
much the same wat that the planets travel through the heavens-
dreamily, orderly, smoothly. We lacked for nothing; we had no unmet
needs; we wanted nobody. There was no strife and no chaos. We were
But in our wholeness, we became overly proud. In our pride, we
neglected to worship the gods. The mighty Zeus punished us for our
neglect by cutting all the double-headed, eight-limbed, perfectly
contented humans in half, thereby creating a world of cruelly severed
one-headed, two-armed, two-legged miserable creatures. In this moment
of mass amputation, Zeus inflicted on mankind that most painful of
human conditions: the dull and constant sense that we are not quite
whole. For the rest of time, humans would be born sensing that there
was some missing part- a lost half, which we love almost more than we
love ourselves- and that this missing part was out there someplace,
spinning through the universe in the form of another person. We would
also be born believing that if only we searched relentlessly enough,
we might someday find that vanished half, that other soul. Through
union with the other, we would recomplete our original form, never to
experience loneliness again.
This is the singular fantasy of human intimacy: that one plus one will
somehow, someday, equal one.
Plato, The Symposium.