What Plato Would’ve Said to Carl and Ellie’s Story (On Love)

Having been aware of the possible accusation of me being moonstruck over a particular guy stimulated by this post, I’ll put it upfront that (even ephemeral) fondness is an inseparable part of life—meaning, philosophers do not simply ignore the existence and elusiveness of this peculiar emotion.

They did–and still do–talk about it. In various parts of the world, students read books on the philosophy of love (‘philo-‘ means love, by the way). No, seriously. They really do. Even if they don’t, I know you’re furtively intrigued by the title. HAHAHA.

Well.

To start, in one of those late-night braindances, my friend (an avid thinker himself) and I arrived to this conversation on mankind’s most bewildering concept: soulmates.

Asked we: Do they really exist?

Grandpa2

Aside from how much I admire Carl and Ellie’s story, I remained skeptical—I doubted the possible chance of discovering one single male/female that was decided by God to be ‘the one’, especially with this whole mess of people fooling around with each other. Even if it was true, the risk of being exposed to getting hurt as a trade-off for wrong guesses is just too much of a burden.

That is not to mention these unanswered questions:

  • At what point can we be assured that someone is our other half? I mean, if you would only marry your soulmate, how can you confirm such faith before the story even finishes?
  • Is relationship/marriage the only tool to officialize this hypothesis? What about married ‘soulmates’ who get divorced?
  • Does cheating negate the idea that he’s your soulmate? Why so?
  • Is death, then, the only validating mechanism to prove your notion?

As a social scientist, I firmly stand for a quantification of premises. When the society fails to produce these indicators, I must induce that it owns zero utility and shall not prevail.

My friend, however, thought otherwise. Soulmates do exist, said he. But today’s culture has misinterpreted the claim. Soulmates are ought to always be plural–a man can have many soulmates, some of which might as well end up being his bestfriends. When you can perceive an established, subconscious connection, voila, he’s your soulmate.

…wait, what?

That is indeed an intriguing way of portraying a new idea of soulmates, but it mercilessly violates the first rule of soulmate-ship: exclusiveness. I simply fail to see any point in possessing a public good soulmate who is cheaply accessible for everyone.

I mean, a ‘shared other-half’ already sounds like an oxymoron.

Putting the bliblical tenets (and ‘I created thou in pairs’ ayat in Al-Qur’an) aside, the initial blame should go to Aristophanes (who had lived even before Muhammad and Jesus were born) for the crazy idea that he proposed:

…Humans originally had four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces, but Zeus feared their power and split them all in half, condemning them to spend their lives searching for the other half to complete them.

Thank you, Aris, for the inconvenient visualization. I mean it.
Assuming that he was true, though, my questions would still be justifiable.

As much as the symbolization of this concept sound effortlessly uncomplicated, the practicalities are far from easy. The society’s derivative theses about soulmates, for example, distort our initial, honest judgment. Some of them say that opposites naturally attract–even when it leads to daily disputes–while Javanese tradition believes that you and your soulmate ought to share similar toughts or at least look physically alike.

Confusing, much? I wish God did not forget to drop a Guideline to Soulmate Discovery when He put Adam and Eve on Earth.

Anyway.

Plato, putting Aristophanes’s thoughts into Symposium, added:

I believe that if our loves were perfectly accomplished, and each one returning to his primeval nature had his original true love, then our race would be happy. And if this would be best of all, the best in the next degree must in present circumstances be the nearest approach to such union; and that will be the attainment of a congenial love.

I have no idea what he specifically meant by ‘congenial love’, but if his postulation was true, then the reason why today’s planet is filled with more and more unhappy people has been revealed: instead of tenaciously chasing their ‘original true love’ (with the inherent risk of getting hurt and deceived), we run after worldliness that provide us more control. In other words, we deny our genetic urge and hide in the safe haven called ‘productivity’.

Even Walt, one of the most prominent International Relations scholars who is plausibly indifferent to the idea, cared about how realism would see relationships. A realist friend and I shared a similar sentiment, but we brought our discourse on its conceptualization beyond Walt’s, especially on seeing relationships as a form of strategic alliances by state-actors.

Basically, it’s how vigilant calculations on involved parties’ interest and the global structure are required to take place before a country decides to sign a pact.

Some people—having drunk too much Symposium—would romanticize that love is not the union of man and woman, it’s rather a reunion of one unity. This actually belittles the significance of words and grammar rules–affection is a universal language, they would say.

Before we get anywhere else, here’s a beautiful, comforting quote from Aomame in Murakami’s 1Q84:

If you can love someone with your whole heart–even if he’s a terrible person or he doesn’t love you back–life is not a hell, at least.

To fall in love and get extremely happy but having to deal with the unknown future with its hazardous sadness, or to remain fairly ‘okay’ at the middle point by denying how you feel about the magical conversations you always have with that particular person.

The choice is all yours, my dear.

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