You’ve made it through all the love-based holidays. You got your significant other a gift for Christmas, a kiss for New Years and a dozen roses for Valentine’s Day. Maybe you’re a senior and as the weather gets warmer and spring draws nearer, you might ask yourself, am I meant to be in one of those “Ring by Spring” couples? You wonder is your significant other is the one? Is this person my person? Is this person – dare I say it? – my soulmate?
The idea of soulmates has weaved itself through the fabric of our society. From childhood, we read fairy tales of princesses finding prince charmings and are told that it is only when they get married do they have a “Happily ever after.” We are raised on romantic comedies following the lives of seemingly perfect pairs. We study literary couples like Adam and Eve, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Noah and Allie and Romeo and Juliet. We can’t see an advertisement without being bombarded with this idea of these perfect couples. Even in the comfort and safety of our homes, we cannot escape this message. When we are single past our twenties, family members at dinner parties ask us where our other half is located (although they don’t say it in those words). The idea of soulmates is ingrained in us.
We can blame the Ancient Greeks for this idea. The idea of soulmates came about, like many of our current ideas and traditions, from these ancient, Grecian philosophers. Plato wrote a work titled “The Symposium” which explores the meaning of love through stories told by each of the noteworthy thinkers of the time. Aristophanes, a comic playwright, tells a fantastical myth about “finding your other half.” Long ago, Aristophanes says, humans had four arms and four legs and two heads and – well, they had a double set of everything. The great god, Zeus, was afraid of these powerful multi-limbed beings, so he decided to cut each of them in half. This story explains why the humans of today only have two arms and legs but it also explains humans’ present-day desires to find their match. Ever since Zeus’ separation, these half beings wander the Earth aimlessly until they become whole once more. Thus, came the idea of soulmates.
Yet why do we continue to perpetrate this incredulous myth? Although the story itself seems to be simply an outlandish explanation, is there any truth in the myth? Does “the one” exist?
Perhaps people just choose their life mate based on attraction, obligation, proximity, similarity or ease. Reading “Romeo & Juliet” convinced me more of the psychological power of hormonal attraction than of the reality of soulmates. In a country where there is just as much divorce as marriage, I start to wonder if people just settle for the person that seems right at the time. They might just meet a girl at work or school and think, ‘yep, this is it.’ They might choose their mate because it is an easy choice, a simple choice – but is it the right choice? And is there a right choice?
Hypothetically, let’s say soulmates are real. If “the one” does exist, do we only get one? What happens if you meet your soulmate but they, frightfully, get hit by a truck? Are you left to live the rest of your life mateless because you only get one chance? Or, if you do meet a new mate, is this new mate your soulmate and the death-by-truck mate actually not your soulmate at all? Was the new mate actually your soulmate all along?
Despite all these questions, I would like to think there are such things as soulmates. Maybe it’s my societal bias, my love for fairytales, my belief in a higher power or my inability to look at Michelle and Barack Obama and think otherwise, but I believe in soulmates. As readers, we never question whether Elizabeth was actually supposed to end up with someone else – perhaps Mr. Collins. We readers knew that Darcy was the only prejudice to her pride, her equal in every way. We see glimpses of soulmates, romantic or not, everywhere in stories as well as real life. I think the idea of a soulmate is beautiful because it transcends gender, social class, race and all other things. Sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t.
Then again, there are 7.5 billion people in the world. There is no possible way anyone could go through every one of those people and be certain that the person they choose is their soulmate. If you only have one soulmate, how are you, a twenty-some year old St. Olaf student, going to find them? Maybe you should think twice about “Ring by Spring.”
Having trouble navigating the St. Olaf dating scene? Need help finding a date? Got more dates than you can handle? Or have a response to this week’s column? E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe one of our love columnists will answer them in next week’s issue. All submitted questions will remain anonymous.