What a strange thing it is, Eryximachus, that, whereas other gods have poems and hymns made in their honour, the great and glorious god, Love, has no encomiast among all the poets who are so many. There are the worthy sophists too-the excellent Prodicus for example, who have descanted in prose on the virtues of Heracles and other heroes; and, what is still more extraordinary, I have met with a philosophical work in which the utility of salt has been made the theme of an eloquent discourse; and many other like things have had a like honour bestowed upon them. And only to think that there should have been an eager interest created about them, and yet that to this day no one has ever dared worthily to hymn Love's praises! So entirely has this great deity been neglected.
These days, why would we gather at a symposium, ‘drink-together’ and sing praises to the god of love, Eros? How and why should one sing praises to Eros today? And how to talk about love, how to express love, without immediately turning from love itself to patterns, clichés, examples and idiosyncrasies of our (or that of others’) everyday life? They are indeed nothing more than one of its possible forms, but also nothing more than that, and in fact, hardly tell us anything definitive about love itself. Perhaps one is only to start one’s reflection here, but not stop: at such a point, but not stop there: The error in your conception of Eros was very natural, and as I imagine /…/ has arisen out of a confusion of love and the beloved. So, what is the true nature of Eros?
In Symposium, one of Plato’s key dialogues and most important ruminations on love ever written, Plato puts emphasis on socializing, 'drinking together', having fun and above all, conversation. He put seven attempts to address Eros in the mouths of seven wise men. The symposiasts try to approach Eros as closely as possible, drawing on their own experience and knowledge, no matter how far from the essence they really are. They listen to each other and pull each other in their respective nebulae to find the right colour, shape, smell, taste and nature of love. Perhaps it is the polyphony of thought that Eros makes more tangible and immediate. At the very moment one is to start speaking, only one of them has an attack of hiccups.
How often have I hiccups when I am to talk about love? Or perhaps only think about love. Seek its true shape. That it is necessary to think about it, am I persuaded by countless stories, images and paintings, works of art, historic and modern, which could be understood as recurrently novel attempts at articulating love. But the more I try to think hard, the more I feel that 2300 years later we are no closer to an answer, it’s just that we talk less – and there is actually less to think about it. Love and ‘dialogues about love’ remain to seem omnipresent: they are often captured in new and novel instant forms, television shows, emoticons and images, always tied to deeply-rooted patterns – love is only love for someone, it is bound to the male and the female, love is a partnership, love is sexuality. And there is loneliness when love is absent. Outside these frames, I am sometimes afraid of talking about love, even of thinking about it, even though I know and feel that it exists. At the same time, faced with its constant untouchability, when we keep coming so close to it, but never reach it, I wonder whether love is not simply a misbelief, an ideal, unattainable, actually, as a total experience. Is this perhaps also another image of Eros?
Faith in the ultimate totality has long vanished with a postmodern experience. So how are fragmented subjects today still to experience love which calls for the withdrawal of all delusions and masks? Contemporary society places love in a series of products, in consumer practice, and locks it in a frame and ideal of security that we all long for intensely. But love is primarily a risk. It is a departure from social normativism and as such a field of pure truth that goes beyond the individual and all social shackles.
Nevertheless, such symposia on love are still my (intimate) every day. Love arises when one speaks, which is why conversations often deal with this major topic. To talk about love gives one pleasure. Likewise, theatre is love too. Exploring what appears unattainable within theatre brings about a new polyphony of thinking that may bring me closer to something more tangible. Love is the feeling of lack which I try to fill up with theatre.
That is why I want to find a way to sing my praise to Eros.