Single Man Seeks Megan Fox Look-Alike

All over the internet, and in newspapers throughout much of the world, there are thousands upon thousands of ‘singles adverts’. You know the type of thing; they usually go something like ‘Divorced 50-year old man with Peter Kay eyes and John Smiths s.o.h. seeks 18-19 year-old university student – preferably Charlotte Church-look-alike – for penetrating conversations down the Pig & Whistle’. Unlike this example, they are usually full of vague adjectives: funny, sexy, kind, generous, open-minded, intellectual, caring etc. On the surface, they appear completely unsurprising, but they hide a bizarre fact about love.

Let’s say that one of those adverts is placed by a 30-year old woman who lists five qualities to describe her ideal man: ’30-45 years old, athletic build, tender, a lover of music, and someone who’s great with kids.’ Now, just imagine how many guys there are throughout the world who conform to those qualities – there must be hundreds of thousands of them! Does that mean that the lady who placed the ad would love every single one of them? Of course it doesn’t! Now, partly, that’s because some of them will possess those qualities along with other attributes that she finds a turn-off – they might be obsessed with playing Fifa or with blog-writing, for example. But even if we narrow down the list by assuming the existence of even just a few hundred guys who would match a vast list of such desirable characteristics, what is it that distinguishes the man (or men) she loves from those she doesn’t love?

This is a common conundrum. Don’t we all feel that sense of pointlessness when someone asks us what it is that we love about our partners? I could list so many things, but none of them seem to capture exactly what it is that makes my girlfriend so special! And that’s because a person is not a list of attributes. A person is both more and less than any list of words you could use to describe them. They are like the beautiful darkness in constellations, so that even those with similar stars perform them in totally different rhythms and dimensions.

And this leads to something I really don’t know the answer to, but please respond if you do: is this what we mean when we talk about the soul?

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6 thoughts on “Single Man Seeks Megan Fox Look-Alike

  1. Kerzo says:

    If the soul is, as you say, “like the beautiful darkness in constellations…” – if it is like the void that antithetically highlights and holds together the myriad points of light that constitute the listed attributes and particulars of a person – then where is the separation between your soul and mine? Aren’t you really postulating an ‘All Soul’?

    Any yet, can’t we also see that universally beautiful darkness in the centered depths of the eyes of those that we love and have the confidence to look at and into? The eyes, of course, that are the most fortunately cilchéd windows of the soul.

    1. Daniel Hartley says:

      That you equate the ‘beautiful darkness’ with the experience of daring to peer into the eyes of another is brilliant! What you’ve highlighted is precisely what I wanted to emphasise without using the term itself: the dimension of the Neighbour. The Neighbour is she with a universe behind her eyes. (Maybe Rowan Williams said that…not sure.)

      As for your first point regarding the ‘All Soul’, there I’m reluctant to agree. I think here we must firmly delineate the problematic boundary at which a very useful explanatory metaphor ends (constellation/ darkness) and consistent intellectual rigour begins. For a start, the ‘All Soul’, in the abstract at least, fails to incorporate the body: if I agree that our ‘individuality’ is not simply coextensive with our individual biological limits, I would still deem it crucial to factor it into our thinking. For example, Christians believe in a bodily resurrection – not just some aimless immaterial soul wandering the celestial wastes for all eternity. And this creed implies an intimate relation between body and soul. (Aquinas actually defines the soul – after Aristotle – as the ‘first act of a natural organic body’. What sight is to the eye, the soul is to the body. But I still don’t understand the consequences of that…)

  2. Kerzo says:

    So then we should begin our ‘intellectual rigour’ at the ‘problematic boundary’. Now that you have artfully illustrated the idea of the attributes of a person as a constellation of starlight-like points and beautiful connecting darkness, I pose the question: aren’t there many constellations in the night sky? Let’s say each of these is a person. Do these constellations relate to each other like the points within a constellation relate to each other? If the constellations all relate to a macro-constellation, let’s say, the whole unadulterated majesty of the night sky, then there must then be ‘soul’ to connect them. So, you then have ‘soul’ as the relationship between particulars (individual anythings, for the sake of argument) on an ever increasing scale. My soul connecting my attributes, our soul connecting our attributes (however loosely or distantly), the soul connecting the (as in ‘all possible’) attributes.

    It might well be the same with Aquinas – what is a ‘natural organic body’? A plant, myself, society, Earth, the Universe? Or all of the above on an ever increasing scale?

    To digress then into an answer to the Cartesian conundrum, with God’s help. If Christians believe spiritually in a corporeal resurrection then this intrinsically ties the body to the soul and the soul to the body. Where is the distinction if the soul resurrects with the body or the body with the soul?

    1. Daniel Hartley says:

      These are all brilliant questions! I don’t know the answer, though. The relationship between body and soul remains to me a mystery. That they are not separated as in some form of Cartesian dualism is a certainty; they must be in some way ‘inter-immanent’, if you catch my drift.

      I like the idea of a macro-constellation, though I wonder what Adorno would say… Would it be, for him, one step too far – to subsume the particular into the universal? Also, it is difficult to reconcile what you’re saying (which is effectively a form of pantheism) with orthodox Christian doctrines of the triune God and his relation to the world (non-pantheist – i.e. he is more than the material expanse of the unvierse).

      Do you have any ‘non-constellatory’ reasoning which supports the ‘macro-constellation’ theory? (I don’t think we’re going to solve this any time soon, my greatest idealist friend!)

  3. Kerzo says:

    panentheism

    noun

    the belief or doctrine that God is greater than the universe and includes and interpenetrates it.

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