left biblioblography: HERE’S TO OUR BETTER HALVES: ANDROGENY, ARISTOPHANES, AND ANGRY INCHES – THE ORIGIN OF LOVE

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

HERE’S TO OUR BETTER HALVES: ANDROGENY, ARISTOPHANES, AND ANGRY INCHES – THE ORIGIN OF LOVE

I watched a wonderful film two or three years ago, by the name of “Hedwig and the angry inch”. A strange, strange tale. It addresses so many issues on so many levels, that I could write an entire thesis on the movie, and not do it justice. Overtones of gnosticism blended with transgender issues.

So I will simply lift a portion I found fascinating. There was this bizarre yet brilliant (all the music in it was such) song called ‘The Origin of Love”.

I’m going to give you all of it, in order to do it any sort of justice (note – I can’t seem to find a place to listen to it on the ‘Net, outside of Youtube.com, which has a TERRIBLE rendition of it):

“When the earth was still flat,
And the clouds made of fire,
And mountains stretched up to the sky,
Sometimes higher,
Folks roamed the earth
Like big rolling kegs.
They had two sets of arms.
They had two sets of legs.
They had two faces peering
Out of one giant head
So they could watch all around them
As they talked; while they read.
And they never knew nothing of love.
It was before the origin of love.
The origin of love
And there were three sexes then,
One that looked like two men
Glued up back to back,
Called the children of the sun.
And similar in shape and girth
Were the children of the earth.
They looked like two girls
Rolled up in one.
And the children of the moon
Were like a fork shoved on a spoon.
They were part sun, part earth
Part daughter, part son.
The origin of love
Now the gods grew quite scared
Of our strength and defiance
And Thor said,"I'm gonna kill them all
With my hammer,
Like I killed the giants."
And Zeus said, "No,You better let me
Use my lightning, like scissors,
Like I cut the legs off the whales
And dinosaurs into lizards."
Then he grabbed up some bolts
And he let out a laugh,
Said, "I'll split them right down the middle.
Gonna cut them right up in half."
And then storm clouds gathered above
Into great balls of fire
And then fire shot down
From the sky in bolts
Like shining blades
Of a knife.And it ripped
Right through the flesh
Of the children of the sun
And the moon
And the earth.And some Indian god
Sewed the wound up into a hole,
Pulled it round to our belly
To remind us of the price we pay.
And Osiris and the gods of the Nile
Gathered up a big storm
To blow a hurricane,To scatter us away,
In a flood of wind and rain,
And a sea of tidal waves,
To wash us all away,
And if we don't behave
They'll cut us down again
And we'll be hopping round on one foot
And looking through one eye.
Last time I saw you
We had just split in two.
You were looking at me.
I was looking at you.You had a way so familiar,
But I could not recognize,
Cause you had blood on your face;
I had blood in my eyes.
But I could swear by your expression
That the pain down in your soul
Was the same as the one down in mine.
That's the pain,
Cuts a straight line
Down through the heart;
We called it love.
So we wrapped our arms around each other,
Trying to shove ourselves back together.
We were making love,
Making love.
It was a cold dark evening,
Such a long time ago,
When by the mighty hand of Jove,
It was the sad story
How we became
Lonely two-legged creatures,
It's the story of
The origin of love.
That's the origin of love.”

This was accompanied by animation.

This was the first time I’d heard this particular theory/myth/legend. How strange, yet appealing it is. Who came up with this?
Turns out it was Aristophanes, in Plato’s Symposium. Here it is:
Aristophanes
The speech of Aristophanes is often regarded by classicists as being the literary high point of the Symposium. Departing from the rhetorical structure of the preceding speeches, Aristophanes, a comedic playwright perhaps best remembered today for his satire of Socrates in The Clouds, contributes a myth accounting for the origin of both humans and love.
He explains that there were originally three types of humans: male, female, and an androgynous combination of the two (189e). These humans had four arms, two faces, two sets of sexual organs, and so on; they were completely round, and when they wished to move quickly, used their eight arms and legs to spin rapidly by performing cartwheels (189e-190a). The male was an offspring of the sun, the female of the earth, and the androgyn of the moon, as according to Aristophanes, the moon is a combination of the sun and the earth (190b).
Due to their form, they had great strength and made repeated attempts to attack the gods (190b). In response, Zeus cut these early humans in half (190e). The humans, in turn, began to die from hunger and general idleness: they longed for their former halves so deeply that they did nothing but wrap themselves around each other (191a-b). Zeus took pity and moved their genitals to the front; previously, Aristophanes explains, humans had reproduced by casting their seed on the ground (191c).
The purpose of this was so that, when a man embraced a woman, he would cast his seed and they would have children; but when male embraced male, they would at least have the satisfaction of intercourse, after which they could stop embracing, return to their jobs, and look after their other needs in life.'
Symposium, 191c-d
Humans continue to seek after their halves; love, then, "is the name for our pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete" (192e-193a). For the human race to flourish, love must be brought to its conclusion, and one must win the favors of his own young man, "so that he can recover his original nature" (193c).
The previous division between higher and lower forms of love is not completely disregarded; Aristophanes claims that many "lecherous" men are those who run after women, and seems to rank lesbians above them, with men who love men being superior to both (191d-e). Aristophanes also suggests that sex, even between people that have matching halves, is not what each lover truly longs for. Aristophanes states that "these are the kinds of people who finish out their lives together and still cannot say what it is that they want from one another" (192c4) When Hephaestus offers to give the lovers what they want from each other, they are unable to answer him. When Hephaestus suggests welding the lovers together physically, Aristophanes postulates that no lovers could find anything they desired more. However, this union cannot actually be what the lovers truly desire because they were unable to state what they did desire. This is because what the lovers, and all humans, desire is what they have been deprived of by Zeus; their true, whole form. The "welding" of the body is desired by the lovers because during sex humans are as close as physically possible to becoming one with their other half. Hephaestus cannot, however, join the lovers where it matters most: their soul or Φυσις. Thus, Aristophanes exhibits an intrinsic shortfall of all human love. He also shows that the desire to unite one's soul with its other half is what love truly is.”

Well, that certainly explains a lot. And here I was, all ready to chalk it up to evolution. I stand corrected (that, BTW, is dry irony, for those who would misquote me).

I trust that most here realize that I’m GLBT-friendly (how friendly? That’s for me to know). I’m a live-and-let-live sorta guy: it’s when other people start slapping out these half-baked theorems about ‘the moral fiber of society’, well, that’s when I start getting a tad bit irked (and bombastic). My favorite Flanders quote is: “I yearn for the good old days, that only exist in my mind.”

I will be doing a post on transgender issues, perhaps later this week (or the next).

Be that as it may, a truly interesting and wonderful film, well worth the time it takes to view it.

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8 comments:

say no to christ said...

More interesting stuff.

Thanks Ra

Sophia Sadek said...

Thanks for the posting. I enjoyed the film as well.

"Symposium" is a text loaded with priceless gems. The fact that it is not required reading for high school students demonstrates the bankrupt nature of our educational system.

Krystalline Apostate said...

SNTC:
Thanks Ra
My pleasure.

sophia:
Hey, thanks for coming by.
The fact that it is not required reading for high school students demonstrates the bankrupt nature of our educational system.
Truthfully, I'd not heard of Sophocles, Aristophanes, or even Herodotus until long after I'd left HS.
I can recall 1 greek tragedy done by the drama club: Medea. That's about it.
I learned Greek mythology on a two-way road trip to PA & back to CA, w/Bullfinch's mythology. I was about 8.
My folks were sick to death of mythology by the time we got home.

farmgirl said...

Well RA hon Im adding that to my list of films to watch. Toni

karen said...

As a child, I had a recurring nightmare about this very rotund ball-shaped naked person, who chased me around my yard trying to roll me down.
Perhaps it was really an ancient memory, from before Zeus split us! ;-)

Interesting read, RA. Thanks.

Krystalline Apostate said...

farmgirl:
Well RA hon Im adding that to my list of films to watch. Toni
Hey, you should drop by more.
I saw your posts at the NGB. Rather than moving to Denmark, why don't you contact a GBLT org. in S.F? They're pretty strong out here, they might be able to help you relocate to S.F. It's a thought.

karen:
As a child, I had a recurring nightmare about this very rotund ball-shaped naked person, who chased me around my yard trying to roll me down.
Yow. What an odd nightmare. I can't really recall any of my childhood nightmares (I'm sure I had a couple). Ma always said I was the most fearless of the 3 of us.
Now, I view nightmares (& dreams) as story content. I've had a few doozies in my adulthood, I tell ya.
Perhaps it was really an ancient memory, from before Zeus split us! ;-)
Hmmm...maybe we can change that old jingle: 'Don't let the door hit ya where Zeus split ya!' Hehehehe.
Interesting read, RA. Thanks.
I aims to please.

karen said...

'Don't let the door hit ya where Zeus split ya!'
LMAO
I LOVE IT!
Will have to remember to use it
and credit you, of course!

Krystalline Apostate said...

karen:
Will have to remember to use it
and credit you, of course!

Truthfully, it's a homily older than myself. It used to be 'where the Good Lord split ya.'
Using Zeus in the context of Aristophanes, it seemed fitting.