Once upon a time, the earth was populated with gods and monsters. There were hundred eyed giants and half horse, half humans. There were serpents with two heads and fire-breathing three-headed creatures with the head of a lion, a snake, and a goat. They had lion claws in front, goat legs behind, and a long snake tail. The gods had dominion over their respective domains - the sea, the earth, the skies, the underworld - but they roamed the earth, frequented their temples, took part in battles, and had sex with humans. Now among the creatures on earth was one most perfect being. Powerful, robust, and strange, the whole lot of them taunted the gods and skittered over the earth with four arms, four legs, two faces set upon the same neck, two sets of genitals, and so on. They moved forward, back, and side to side, spinning cartwheel-like as they ran. They were spherical, the perfect planetary form, male and female they were. It is said that males were born of the sun, females of the earth, but these androgynous beauties were descendants of the moon, that mysterious cratered face in the heavens that waxes and wanes its way around the earth. They were human, but not like you and me. They were flawlessly joined: male to female, male to male, female to female. What they had, inborn in themselves, was Eros. Love. This bringer together of their most ancient nature who tries to make one out of two and heal them.
For a time these creatures did not know anything but their own perfection, their own wholeness.
One day the gods decided they were unbearable: too vigorous, too threatening, all together too much. So the God of all gods commanded they be cut in half, slashed at the belly where they once were connected. Their heads got twisted around and forced to face the scar where the skin had been pulled tight like a drawstring bag around the gash at their midsection. They walked upright on two legs, their genitals rearranged toward the front, their many wrinkles smoothed over....except for the place at their belly, always a reminder of what they had lost. It was also a clue as to what they should seek, which was love. In our ancient nature we were wholes, so love is the name for the desire and pursuit of the whole. (1)
This is, of course, just a story. Its mythological form does not make it any less true. It lends us some insight into our inner nature and why we seek to become whole, to find union with others and also with the divine (or the cosmos, sacred mystery, God). Socrates defined love as a state of in-betweenness, a yearning. Falling in love is not something we do in one extraordinary moment and achieve subsequent perfection or complete understanding of its many layers. Love is something we become, an active seeking to fulfill the tension of our in between-ness. Bill calls his current series “Between the No Longer & the Not Yet.” The Greek word for between is metaxy. To exist in the metaxy is the human condition. We are in between life and death, young and old, unconscious and conscious, ordinary and transcendent. There is even a split second between the release of a ball in the pitcher’s hand and its path toward home plate when we don’t know if it will be a ball, strike, or hit. The tension is relieved by excitement or disappointment! If in this in between space we are operating as singular, isolated beings, navel gazing as it were, rather than looking up and seeking that which makes us whole, we might miss the entire point of living in between. Every single one of us matters to the whole making, so the most pressing question becomes, “How shall we live?” Love itself gives birth to what is beautiful, so if we live in pursuit of love, it can only create more of the same, both in our lifetime and for future generations.
(1) Adapted from Plato’s Symposium c. 385-370 BC. Translation by Seth Benardete.