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The myth of the halves: love in Plato’s time

“Once men were perfect beings, they lacked nothing and there was no distinction between men and women. But Zeus, envious of this perfection, split them in two: since then each of us has been in constant search for his own half, finding which he returns to his ancient perfection … “

Plato had already understood it many years ago that love is suffering and there can be a way out: to find a soul mate. The living being is nothing but half of two individuals divided at the beginning by Zeus who separated them to leave them looking for each other.

It is the myth of the two halves described in the Symposium of Plato, an Athenian philosopher of the fifth century BC. and narrated by the playwright Aristophanes. Once upon a time man and woman were one, perfect and beautiful, but Zeus, envious, divided them in two and destined them to look for their whole life. Finding both would have found the ancient lost perfection. In fact, at the beginning, there were three kinds of living beings: the male, the female and the hermaphrodite. The latter embodied both sexes but with the shapes and roundness of the universal elements of the Sun, from which man would be born, the Earth from which woman would be born and the hermaphrodite genus that united them would have originated from the Moon. Four hands, four legs, four ears, two genital organs, being uniform on a perfectly round neck and of this perfection that gave them strength and vigor, it inspired suspicion and fear to the Gods.

And so Zeus: “I believe that we have a means of ensuring that the human species survives and at the same time that it renounces its arrogance: we must make them weaker. Now I will cut each of them in two, so each of the two parts will be weaker. We will also have another advantage, that their number will be greater. They will move straight on two legs, but if they still show arrogance and do not want to be calm, well I will cut them again in two, so that they will go on one leg, as in the game of wineskins. “

Hence the birth of the myth of the soul mates: in the perennial search that someone can complete us in the defects and in the depths and find ourselves a mirror of themselves in others. This is what myths are for, to explain values, to understand the inexplicable, to give it concreteness and if the myth of the halves can appear bloody, it wants nothing more than to teach us how in life only suffering can lead us to the realization of the greatest desires of the soul, just like love, the real one. Even if as someone else would say, suffering is a vacuum to lose.

“… If this state is the most perfect, then in the situation in which we find ourselves today, the best thing is to try to get as close as possible to perfection: meet the soul closest to us, and fall in love with it. So if we want to praise the god that can make us happy with a hymn, it is in Eros that we must raise our song: to Eros, who in our current unhappiness comes to our aid by making us fall in love with the person who is closest to us; to Eros, which for the future can open us to the greatest hopes. It will be he who, if we follow the gods, will bring us back to our former nature: he promises to heal our wound, to give us joy and happiness. “

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