54. Love and Valentine’s.

It is the not the usual object of philosophical inquiry, but love was seriously studied by the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato. In one of his iconic philosophical dialogues, the “Symposium”, a couple of drunk playwrights, philosophers and soldiers decide to give speeches honouring Eros, or the god of Love. Of all of the definitions, the one which is just so captivating is the following:

“Humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.” – Plato.

Even though this definition is ignored by the philosophers in the dialogue, it stands alone in generating intense emotion from beautiful mythology. We can understand love to be a pursuit of completion, the search for that which we cannot live without; a soulmate.

What’s interesting is the story of Saint Valentine of Terni, born in the 2nd Century A.D. What made him such an iconic figure is that he performed secret marriages for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and he was also known to have advised Christians who were persecuted and hunted down by the Romans. He was eventually imprisoned, and as the legend goes, he ‘healed’ the daughter of his jailer and right before his brutal torture and execution, he left her a note which read: “Your Valentine.”

The 14th of February helps to commemorate the brave martyr whose life may have been taken, but whose ideas about love have lived on for the past millennia and will continue to be a symbol of our Western Culture.

 

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