The Mythical Origin of Our Longing for Love

What is it about us that makes us go after love even if our experience of it has brought anguish and destruction? In her poem Laura Hendricks says: “ If you do not have it, no matter what else there is, it is not enough.” I read an article in the Sunday paper years ago which gives us a mythical explanation. In Plato’s Symposium, Aristophanes talks about the origin of our longing for union.

Once upon a time we humans were actually two people joined together seamlessly as one : two heads, four legs and four arms. We came in three different meldings : male/female, male/male, female/female. We had the perfect partner in our very fabric, and we were content. We lacked nothing, we wanted no-one. And we were whole. We were proud, and got too big for our boots: the gods punished us by cutting us all in half. We were cruelly cut down and miserable. We were left with the constant sense that something was missing, another half that was out there somewhere. We were inflicted with the yearning to find our other soul, condemned to a relentless search. We wanted that union again, to feel complete again. What a strange fantasy – that one plus one would equal ONE! An impossible dream – our other halves were shattered and scattered too far to ever be found. We may think we have found that half, but eventually we will find ourselves wanting again. This wanting makes us mate over and over again, seeking the perfect union. Sometimes we think we have found it, but what we have found is someone else, hoping, just enough, to have found that completion in us.

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