We’re rational beings. OK, we like to think we are. Though we sometimes take on our studies with an emotional approach (e.g., throwing the textbook across the room in frustrated rage), for the most part, as members of academia, we conduct ourselves with reason, logic and sense.
Of course, when it comes to relationships, all that goes flying out the window. I don’t just mean it flaps its little wings and casually drifts into the air. It SOARS. It migrates south for the winter and it turns off its cell phones.
In matters of love and attraction, it doesn’t make sense to be commonsensical about such nonsense. And that makes sense. Right?
Perhaps Blaise Pascal puts it best: “The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing” (for a mathematician, the guy was on to something).
With that said, here’s a curious little question to invest all your rational energies into:
Why does anyone still believe in soul mates?
Before you launch into elaborate and oh-so-precise Aristotelian rhetoric to answer, let’s define this “soul mate” business.
Conveniently, we have an ancient Greek story (brought to us by our good buddy Plato, in “The Symposium”) to help us understand. Here’s a gritty synopsis:
Human beings were originally four-legged, four-armed creatures (I leave a more detailed description to your imagination). At some point, these creatures displeased the gods; so, to settle the unrest and teach them a lesson, Zeus struck them with thunderbolts, splitting them all in half.
Henceforth, humans were fated to wander the earth, desiring reunion with their other halves. According to Plato, those who find each other “can’t even say what they wish for themselves by being with each other. the soul of each clearly wishes for something else it can’t put into words” (make an English major happy: check out the R.E. Allen translation).
The soul mate concept essentially involves the ideas of destiny and fate – a belief or notion that the powers-that-be intend for you to be with a certain someone, and that the universe crafted/designed/evolved (depending on your origination theory) this someone for you.
(See? And you thought our happily-ever-after archetypes came from Disney-princess tales.)
Certainly, there’s a camp of individuals who still believe as the ancient Greeks did. On the extreme, these are your stereotypical hopeless-romantic types who are convinced “the one” for them is out there, and it’s just a matter of time before they find him/her.
There’s nothing wrong with this view; admittedly, I’m a believer myself.
But, from an analytical standpoint, it’s a thoroughly irrational view. Is there any Reason (with a capital R) to believe that out of the 6.5 billion people on the planet, there’s ONE person meant for you? What are the odds of actually finding that person?
There really isn’t a lot of room for error.
Potentially, this makes for quite a bit of nervousness and anxiety. Some people are so caught up in the ideal of “the one” that they can suffer from perpetual doubt in relationships. It doesn’t matter how compatible their partners may seem; they will continue to wonder whether he/she really is “the one,” or whether “the one” is still out there, waiting to be found.
The responsibility of finding “the one” all on your own can be rather stressful.
The alternative perception on soul mates definitely seems more user-friendly than the aforementioned one-shot deal. The idea is that there are certain “types” of people who are compatible with each other on levels of personality, chemistry, etc.
Compatibility is still to be found on a matching one-to-one basis; but there is more than one individual out there with whom a person could make a romantic relationship work.
When dealing with types instead of individual persons, we have a broader range in which to operate – a bigger pool in which to fish. Clearly, this is a lower-pressure tactic to finding the relationship we want.
So what is it about the idea of the soul mate that keeps some of us dead-set on believing it, despite all our reason and logic combined?
Some of us are still holding out for our soul mates because there’s a sort of security to be felt in thinking the universe is taking care of things in the relationship department. For starters, it’s one less thing we have to worry about; and in a psychologically holistic sense, less worrying equals better psycho-emotional health.
Also, it makes the search seem less daunting if we think the universe is on our side. It makes us feel less as though we’re merely half-people wandering aimlessly in search of another half-person.
But for some, having matters entirely out of one’s hands only leads to feelings of insecurity and uncertainty. A cushy communion with higher powers isn’t enough to overcome the everlasting “what if?”
There is one way of looking at things that combines the best of these two views:
Perhaps one of those someones with whom you’re compatible could, after a coffee/dinner date or two, several hundreds of hours of conversation, much online communication, and your basic time-commitment-and-investment package, become your soul mate.
I’ll leave your powers of reason to ponder that.
Sarah Carbonel is an English and psychology junior and Mustang Daily dating columnist.