Over coffee a few weeks ago, my dear friend Courtney asked me do a reading at her wedding ceremony. “Of course!” I responded. Giddy and flattered, I asked, “What would you like me to read?”
“Anything. Something from Philosophy. I trust you,” she said.
I picked a piece from Plato’s Symposium:
Plato’s Symposium gives an account of a dinner party where the participants each took a turn to explain Love. One speech in particular, from the playwright Aristophanes, is the one I wish to share. Aristophanes said that the human being was originally whole, with two heads, four legs and four arms. Having upset the gods, the human was divided into two and left wandering the earth craving blindly for the other half. After some time, Zeus took pity on the beings and turned their heads and arms forward so that they could eventually reconnect with each other.
“When one of them finds his other half…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 they who pass their lives with one another; yet they could not explain the intense yearning for the other. It is that which the soul desires and cannot tell…
Suppose Hephaestus, with his instruments, to come to the pair who are lying side by side and say to them, ‘Do you desire to be wholly one; always day and night to be in one another’s company? For if this is what you desire, I am ready to melt you into one and let you grow together.’
–there is not a man among them when he heard this who would deny or who would not acknowledge that this meeting and melting in one another’s arms, this becoming one instead of two, was the very expression of an ancient need.
And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were whole, and the desire and the pursuit of the whole is called Love….
Therefore we shall do well to praise the god Love, who is the author of this gift, and who is also our greatest benefactor, leading us in this life back to our own nature, and giving us high hopes for the future…”