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Reply To: Symbol(on)s of Love,” with Professor Mark C.E. Peterson”


Hi Sunbug,

Some great observations here….  right, isn’t it the case that, psychologically, we’re always calling out for completeness in some sense?

There are a couple of dimensions to this.  From a more obvious point of view Aristophanes’ story simply describes the experience when you find a “true love.”  It’s like part of you was missing and you didn’t know it.  That’s the power of the Romantic image for sure.  But this also turns into a universal(-izable) principle, as you suggest.  This same romantic experience finds analogies in all the other “erotic” (in the way I’ve defined it here) pieces of life — uncovering pieces of our pscyhe that were missing or hadn’t been in play — or resolved, say .

And so here too is the resistance to the erotic — a refusal to climb out to the edge of yourself so you see what you’re missing.  I think Campbell nailed this part in the Hero’s Journey.  It’s profoundly unsettling to challenge yourself: not merely what you believe but what you’ve taken to be your identity… we cling to that like nobody’s business… and hence the Buddhist observation about the relation between sorrow and the idea of personal identity.  The ego always finds ways to protect itself from change — or dissolution in the Other.

To return this to blunt language, it’s always been amazing (but not surprising) that people can use sex to avoid intimacy.  It’s a weird analogy perhaps, but we can also use endless categorization and “analysis” in order to avoid meaningfulness.  Sometimes understanding our lives is infinitely easier than going out and getting the experience of living one.

One of the underlying secrets here, seems to me, is that wonder is a way to endure the anxiety.  Wonder is, Aristotle noted, the beginning of all knowledge and the way we access the arche, the underlying principles of the universe.

Thanks for these thought-provoking insights!