imagesThe Greek philosopher Plato once told a myth about eros in the voice of a comic poet named Aristophanes. According to the whimsical story he spins, human beings were originally spherical creatures with four arms and four legs and two heads. As punishment for trying to usurp the gods’ power, the gods sliced them in half “like a flatfish.” In our current condition, then, each human being is really only half of the original whole. eros, so says Aristophanes, is our yearning to be reunited with our other half; it is our desire for completeness. But even if sexual union is the best way to achieve this reunion or lost wholeness for now, it is imperfect and temporary. [Plato writes:]

No one would think that [what loves want from each other] is the intimacy of sex–that mere sex is the reason each lover takes so great and deep a joy in being with the other. It’s obvious that the soul of every lover longs for something else; his soul cannot say what it is, but like an oracle it has a sense of what it wants, and like an oracle it lies hidden behind a riddle.

It is true “wholeness” and reunion into oneness that they year for, [Plato] argues, and no amount of physical intercourse will fill that need. Trying to make the physical union of sex alone do all the work of fulfilling us is a strategy doomed to fail. trying to get sexual pleasure to fill our fundamental yearning for human happiness is a recipe for disappointment. Then why do we keep trying it, deluding ourselves that it will be enough? Why is the lustful person’s strategy so tempting to us? [Because a]ll the vices are distorted or excessive attachments to good things.

–Rebecca DeYoung, Glittering Vices: A new Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remediespg. 167