By Scott Sullivan
When someone says, “I have found my soul mate,” I set the timer. Sometimes it works. More often infatuation clears as reality’s light sets in.
I should have learned after arguing with one of my exes there was a collective soul. She thought each one was specific.
“That’s ‘sole,’” I told her.
“That’s how you’ll be from now on,” she said.
The band Collective Soul then released its hit single “Shine” with refrain “Whoa, Heaven let your light shine down.” I thought they meant “woe” till I looked it up. “Whoa” is how you stop horses.
That got me thinking, which is always hazardous. Which came first: Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man” or Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man”? The latter by one year, Google told me. Neil, rich as he was getting, was feeling sorry for himself in 1966, whereas Sam and Dave — “Good lovin,’ I got a truckload” — were belting it out. Isaac Hayes wrote that song.
Sole mate, I told my wife, is an oxymoron.
“That’s why you don’t have a soul mate, moron,” she said. “You slice and dice words and music till they mean nothing. Same with relationships.”
It’s been hours since she said this. The only way to recover was to read Bradley Onishi’s new essay in The Conversation regarding soul mates. Marriage rates, he says, have plummeted in the last decade. Young single people spend more time on social media than dating and having sex, but two-thirds still hope to find their soul mate. Or mates, depending.
It goes back to Plato quoting the even-more-ancient Greek Aristophanes. The comic playwright opined all humans were once united with their other half, but Zeus split them up out of fear and jealousy.
Aristophanes explained the transcendence of soul mates reuniting as, “When one of them meets with his other half — the actual half of himself — the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and one will not be out of the other’s sight even for a moment.”
We all know what follows: stalking.
While Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripedes were birthing Western culture with tragedies about Oedipus and the like, Aristophanes was writing satires such as “Lysistrata.” In it, women try to end the Peloponnesian war by denying men sex, the one thing they really want. This causes a war between sexes also.
Plato blamed Aristophanes mocking Socrates in “The Clouds” for causing the Athenian government to sentence the philosopher to death. I always liked Socrates till I learned he was a rat in the movie “Willard.” Same for Leonardo and Michelangelo, dead by the time I knew them as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Everything, I told my wife, reminds me of something else,
“That’s the problem.”
And opportunity. Free association turns prose to poetry, photographs to windows and blah-blah-blah into music. I started my car to Richard Strauss’ ‘Death and Transfiguration’ on the radio. It ended when I pulled into work. Then I heard about Avery Betts.
Mike and Melissa’s 7-year-old daughter who died after fighting a 100-percent fatal illness. Mike’s a firefighter, Missy an ambulance worker. They and Avery fought all the way.
Because that’s what you do. Like I have to write about sad and glad things. You grieve, then go out and see a long line of fire trucks and police cruisers parked outside Avery’s service. You see a Super Hero Car Wash put on first responders and kids — Avery loved super heroes — to help the Betts’ pay their medical bills.
You see love, life and loyalty kindled and rekindled out of tragedy. I can think of worse legacies.
“What does that have to do with soul mates, transfiguration and ancient Greeks?”
Everything, I said.