Soulmate. Depending on one's emotional or mental composition, the word can conjure up romantic notions or make one's stomach turn; the idea of this planet containing one perfect person--out of a global population that now numbers nearly 7 billion--for each of us to connect to, extraordinarily and eternally, provides much food for thought for this undecided author. As a closeted romantic myself, I find the idea of the soulmate attractive; as a professed disciple of logic and reason, the concept, on the surface, seems quixotic at best.
Oxford Dictionary defines soulmate as "a person ideally suited to another as a close friend or romantic partner." If the general population were to go by this definition alone, I think most of us could be fortunate enough to say we have many soulmates. However, from what I have observed, modern society has placed greater meaning on the term: a soulmate, in today's world, is not merely "ideal"; the term has come to mean a person who, in effect, completes you...one's other (or, in some cases, better) half.
Some will argue that the very idea that we, as independent, free human beings, need someone to complete ourselves--perhaps that we, alone, are not enough--is antiquated. Others will say that we were put on this planet to find purpose and connection in our lives, and in order to successfully do this, the search for one's soulmate must play a crucial part in the course of a lifetime.
The theories about this topic are nothing new. The ancient Greek comic playwright Aristophanes presented a story about soulmates in Plato's The Symposium. It states that humans originally consisted of four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces. However, Zeus feared their power and split them all in half, condemning the humans to spend their lives searching for the other half to complete them. And theosophy--a doctrine of mysticism and religious philosophy--teaches that God created androgynous souls, equally male and female. Later theories say that the souls split into separate genders, perhaps because they incurred karma while playing around on the Earth, during "separation from God." Over a number of reincarnations, each half seeks the other. When all karmic debt is purged, the two will fuse back together and return to the ultimate, united form; two will become one.
Bashert is a Yiddish word that means "destiny," often used in the context of one's divinely predicted spouse (or soulmate), called "basherte" (female) or "basherter" (male). It can also be used to express the apparent fate of an auspicious or important event, friendship, or happening. The idea of soulmates comes from statements found in classical rabbinic literature. A proverb that "marriages are made in heaven" is illustrated by a story in a midrash collection:
A Roman matron, on being told by R. Jose ben Ḥalafta that God arranges all marriages, said that this was an easy matter, and boasted that she could do as much herself. Thereupon she assembled her male and female slaves and paired them off in couples; but on the morrow they all went to her with complaints. Then she admitted that divine intervention is necessary to suitable marriages (Genesis Rabba lxviii. 3-4).
Even God Himself finds it difficult: forty days before a child is born, its mate is determined (Genesis Rabba lxviii. 3-4; Babylonian Talmud, tractates Soṭah 2a; Sanhedrin 22a; comp. M. Ḳ. 18b; "Sefer Hasidim," § 1128). In today's society, some Jewish singles say that they are looking for their bashert; they are looking for that person who will complement them perfectly, and whom they will complement perfectly. Since it considered to have been predetermined by God whom one will marry, one's spouse is considered to be one's bashert by definition, independent of whether the couple's marital life works out well or not.
The idea of a soulmate is an intriguing one for this simultaneously emotional/logical writer. I believe that it is possible to find one person with whom a deep connection can be made, and with whom one can spend the majority of one's life with. I don't believe it is easy, or necessarily predetermined by a heavenly being--even the best relationships require some iota of effort or work. And though my brain tells me the numbers are against the concept, my heart believes in a gentler version of Plato's theory: I think I believe finding one extraordinary person, perhaps defined as a soulmate, is possible. But I disagree with the idea that we are "condemned" to do so. On the contrary, I have come to think it is our privilege to embark on this journey, and those who dare to do so have more enriched lives for it.
We do it classy.
7 hours ago