...in which Doug muses on Soul-Mates
Ok, I looked up "soul mates" on Wikipedia, and it turns out to be some second season episode of Babylon 5. Man. That puts all those old novels and short stories and poems and greeting cards and artworks and so forth into a weird perspective. They were all talking about a science-fiction television show episode. Oh. OH.
Tooling around, I finally found the article on "soulmate", one word (which is fitting, I find) and I read Wikipedia's description. "Twin flames". "Twin souls". Or, to a lesser degree, someone you feel a deep bound with. That is a difference more striking than it seems at first glance. Are we talking about best friends, or a metaphysical concept? There are at least two "great minds of the Western World" descriptions of soul-mates. Plato's Symposium mentions us being together, as one, originally and we were split by the gods. Now we wander in search for our other half. In the Bible, Mark 10:6-9, Jesus talks about man and woman being made one, and that their rejoining is something of a natural return to order. Now, skeptics will point out that both describe the "flesh" being sundered, not the soul. I will give you that. You do have the Eastern themes of Yin-Yang, the in-and-out (shut up) flowing. Balance is only found in the Tao when the forces flow equally. Again, not exactly the human soul, more the essence of what it means to be human, but we can argue semantics all day, or we can fish.
Without a firm background, the term has been allowed to drift into what you might call the weak and strong camps. The weak soul-mate camp uses the term mostly to mean "we work together really well and our life together is nice!" The "soul-mate" status specifically requires meeting someone face-to-face and spending time with them. What's more, depending on how weak the concept is, there may be more than one soul-mate in potentia and that whatever fate befalls you, you may end up with one or more of them over your lifetime. In the strong soul-mate camp is the concept that your souls are bound for eternity, no matter what, and if you never find the person then you are never complete, or, somewhat more tolerably, if you never find the person, your souls are still conjoined and you will always have weird flashes of them and such what. The weak camp might also be called the positive camp, since the concept is largely one of addition, while the strong camp is more negative, being that only one life-path can truly fulfill it and other life-paths are wrought with suffering.
I have noticed a blending of those two concepts coming up in the Christians around me. It involves the concept of strong, since God means for you to be with a particular person and weak, since the actual soul-mate is someone you are meant to be with physically and the soul-mate status is largely a degree of happiness felt in the relationship. Alternatively, there is a more new-age version that esconses deeply into the strong camp and weak camps, that holds that twin-flames are actually the other halves of our whole soul, and that finding them is not an act of falling in love with another being, but returning to our androgynous state of goodness; while soul-mates are those souls we encounter many times over many lives (you can read more about it on this website).
I do not believe in soul-mates myself, not really. I have enough Spinoza in me to believe there is something like universal fate, and this would involve love as much as anything else, but I do not really accept the more romantic notion of soul-mates that gets trucked out around Valentine's day. Neither am I a complete skeptic, though. I've watched people meet up and fall madly in love, all at once, and then never really separate. Just, you know, how horrible would it be if some had soul-mates and others did not? I am curious as to who really uses the term soul-mate more? Those deeply in love and wanting to praise God (and/or god-like things) for it? Or, those not in love but know the future will be better? Maybe those, like me, who have done some pretty stupid things for love. Saying the universe made us do it...well, that sounds better. "I cut my ear off for you! Um...no...the universe practically dictated it..."
Why don't I believe in soul-mates? Would it help if it said I was a dried up cynical old man who had no room in my heart for romantic notions? No? Well, my disbelief stems from a single book. Well, it was, like, four books. I was reading novels that make the Scions story arc of the Shannara Universe, and there are two brothers. They both meet this one woman. Ok, in the story, one brother meets her first, and then they get separated. She then teams up with the other brother to seek out the first. In the story, we accept that she is fated to be with the one brother because she met him first. We accept, and as fantasy readers, we need her to fall in love with the first brother. It was when I read that and though, well, had she met the second brother first, narratively...she would have been his lover. That's when I was forced to piece together what I was witnessing in the real world and noticed that's kind of true everywhere. We do fall deeply in love. We do give up huge chunks of ourselves to another person. Sometimes it takes great tumblings of gyre to bring this about. But, in most ways, it is mostly us seeing a kindred spirit in the midst of the chaos and acting upon what we see. Maybe that's my definition of a soul-mate: someone willing to put up with you and share a life with you, despite it all.
As I have been writing all of this, I have been thinking about being a right bastard and writing a story in which two beautifully perfect for each other soul-mates aren't allowed to be together. Who knows why, right now. That's the concept. Two people absolutely meant for each other, but something goes wrong. I know that's a contradiction in terms, but it's that contradiction I want to play with. I guess Thomas Hardy already travelled that path. In both Jude, the Obscure and Tess of the D'ubervilles, we are looking at couples that are meant to be but something else goes wrong, first. I'm thinking that I would do for something a little more contemporary. College campus. Two professors (maybe a professor and something else: librarian, student, part-time instructor) and they fall madly in love. Let's say either a librarian or part-time English instructor and a Chemistry prof. Call it Writing about Chemistry. They meet professionally, fall madly in love, but one of them is married and deeply religious. Maybe their ages are all out of whack. Maybe there is a war going on and they have differing views. I have it. She just recently went through her husband dying, whom she loved, but it was something like a college fling become a marriage. Now this younger man, about ten years younger, comes along and there are immediate sparks but it has only been a few weeks. No one would understand. Anyhow, they end up with something like a madly passionate weekend, and then that's it. The first words of the novel will be "Hello" and the last words will be "Goodbye".
The chapters will allude scenes and acts for Romeo and Juliet, maybe, except out of whack. The parting scene, you know "Parting is such sweet sorrow" will be the last chapter of the novel. The scene where the two lovers die will be early on, in a flashback.
Like I said, right bastard.
Si Vales, Valeo