The Beloved and the Knowing

I’ve been thinking about Plato’s idea of the Beloved, and about how every decent pop song ever written exhibits the yearning for wholeness and completion that Plato locates in the Beloved.  This is, perhaps not coincidentally, also why so many pop songs can be rendered as peans to what we usually mean when we say “God.” (Brian Wilson knew this when he talked about “Smile” 40 years ago).   That’s really all I have to say about it; just that pop songs are almost invariably Platonic. Our relationship with the Beloved teaches us about ourselves, cultivates joy, and lifts us for observations of the divine.  (Brian Wilson knew this when when he wrote “God Only Knows” and knew it again the first time Carl finished singing the first line).
The spiritual tension isn’t always expressed as sexual/romantic.  Often it’s rendered in terms of what people usually mean when they say “platonic” in the first place.  How right they are, as it turns out.  All the Pink Floyd songs about Syd Barrett are about the platonic (in the popular and classical senses) friendship of Roger Waters and Barrett and then its loss, or rather Waters’ and the world’s loss of Barrett spiraling out from Barrett’s own loss of self.  God, those songs are good.
I suppose you need this yearning if you’re going to make art.  I suppose you need this sense of incompleteness…I suppose this is why art has become so personal and why didactic art or message art is usually bad.  I suppose it’s also why you can hear and see yearning in art at all, that is, why you can receive it as such, why you can feel like you own it, why you can sing a stranger’s words and somehow still feel known and like you know.  And so then art is in the intuitive, emotional knowing that we are not finished. That we lack.  What it is we lack is something else.  God or human other, lover, loving, love?  But at least there is the knowing.

3 thoughts on “The Beloved and the Knowing

  1. For those of us who do not have a degree in philosophy, does this refer to the speech by Aristophanes in The Symposium? (If so, go wikipedia!)

  2. First, apologies for a rather sloppy post when it comes to the platonic ideas. I’m mixing them with no reference or explanation, and that’s not really helpful for anyone.

    My answer about the symposium, for example, would be yes and no. yes in so far as the idea of wholeness is found in the speech, no in so far as I don’t think Plato was advocating that particular creation myth as a matter of belief. Instead, as he gets at elsewhere, I think what Plato is really after is the idea of loving friendship as that which lifts us. I think he uses the idea of soulmates as Aristophanes outlines but doesn’t finally mean the same thing himself. For Plato it was more about a friendship of mutual discovery in which each party is made better because of what’s learned from the other, and in this sense are made more complete. But some do view Aristophanes’ view as Plato’s own true cosmology of love. I do not.

  3. (Again this synchronicity of people’s thoughts I seem to be experiencing constantly these days — I have to read Jung to try to make sense of it!)

    The lines between religious and romantic love (or yearning) are well-documented, e.g. in ‘Halleluiah’…

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