Ah, love. A complicated thing indeed. In Spain, we have a saying, “your loved one is your half-orange.” In English, we tend to say similar things like “your love is your other half.” An interesting expression, whether a simple half is meant or an orange does not matter much, but does say something awesome about our natures. ‘Why?’ You ask. Well, in Spanish, the expression takes on a more vivid connotation. Let me show you. Have you ever wondered where the expression came from? Well, Aristophanes, king of comedy in Ancient Greece, supposedly once told a story prevalent in his time about Zeus, humans, and love. The pun at the end of the story is written thus:
ὁ ἔρως… ἰὰσασθαι τὴν φύσιν τὴν ἀνθρωπίνην.
Love… [is] what cures humanity’s nature.
El amor… es la cura de la naturaleza humana.
The famous playwright who puts down Socrates in his comedic play Clouds, adds this at the end of his narrative to illustrate how love can cure our worst traits. It is a rare dramatic ending to an otherwise happy-go-lucky writer (I like to compare Aristophanes to Robin Williams), but that should not be overlooked. Aristophanes tells this story, as mentioned above, during his participation in the Symposium of Plato; something we should definitely consider with a grain of salt since Plato, arguably Socrates’ favorite follower, is the one reporting on what the artist had said; although there is very little evidence that Plato and Aristophanes had any personal problems, so we don’t need to be too careful. An analysis of the story may give us some insight into the overall feeling of the tale.
Let us place Clouds aside (written seven years before the Symposium). Aristophanes makes a well presented speech, albeit comedic in nature, and which speaks to the power of a united humanity. Our comedian stipulates that love is the product of the cutting-in-half of three tribes of powerful humans who dared to challenge the gods. The Immortals, seeking to avoid an upcoming human rebellion but unable to kill them because they needed their praises, are at a loss about what to do. Zeus finally decides that he will cut this powerful human beings (who at this time have four arms, four legs and two heads) in half. The three tribes are the man/man, woman/woman and man/woman (androgynous) tribes.
The tribes’ power stemmed from their ability to roll over anything and everything, because they are round by nature. This rolling motion (like rolling with the punches) makes humanity practically invincible, even to the gods! Zeus realizes that by separating the three tribes from their halves, they will soon stop cooperating and become weaker, unable to roll (over things or punches) while still being subservient to him, killing two birds with one stone or, in this case, separating two birds with a kitchen knife. Well, the cuts are made and everyone is told to go about their lives divided; however, the halves want each other back badly. The longer they are separated, the more they long for each other. Halves, wandering the world, seek their actual halves desperately, something which is still going on today, according to the comedian. Aristophanes points out that the more numerous tribe is the androgynous one, hence the attraction between men and women as the most common in humanity. The less common tribes, man/man, women/women, also seek each other and are the origin, according to our dear playwright, of homosexual relationships.
Having explained the origins of sexuality and attraction thus, the playwright goes on to state the natural man (‘man’ meaning humanity) was like an animal, it just had relations with anything and everything, it did not matter what it was. The natural man was also uncivilized and unharnessed, subject to changes in mood and the powers of Nature (the goddess, who made humans uncivilized), hence the title Natural Man we see all over the place in religion and philosophy. The maxim we read above, written as a report of Aristophanes’ speech during his turn in the Symposium, was that only true love (the love of the spirit) could heal humanity’s natural wants and create relationships of standing and value which would never be corrupted. Real love keeps people honest and guides them towards the right companion, another half; it is a cure for everything we do wrong, it helps us strive for the good, seek those better than us, work harder, suffer more, complain less, be more patient, caring, understanding, seek knowledge, turn it into wisdom, and become a shining beacon for others. Love, argues Aristophanes, is the cure for everything that is wrong with humanity. I find this conclusion fascinating.
So, reader, when you think of your other half, think of oranges as well. Remember the power we used to have before Zeus divided us. Whoever you are, and whoever you love, that union should make you a better person. Rolling with the punches will be easier when you have someone to roll with, and life will be less powerful on a team than by yourself. But hey, you may be just half an orange and still be happy. Aristophanes did not say that we should first love ourselves; we definitely should. Unless you learn to love your own half, how can you love another half after all? Be a great half-orange, reader; and another half-orange will find you, eventually. If not, love and respect yourself; that is also quite alright!