What is love

Plato's Symposium (painting by Feuerbach)

It was an absolute delight to attend James Redfield’s lecture. He visited ECLA on the 8th of May. The lecture focused on Plato’s Symposium, and James Redfield discussed Socrates’ ideas about love. The lecture in text form was given to all the audience members, which made it even easier to follow James Redfield as he delivered lecture. He spent the first half of the lecture laying down a very detailed account of the Symposium’s historical background and how each of the characters was placed in the setting of Rome of that time. This introduction very smoothly paved its way into the book as Professor Redfield connected real-life incidents to some of the characteristics and speeches that the guests in the Symposium state.

I had read the Symposium three years ago, but after sitting through this lecture, I could actually feel the Symposium somehow as an event that had actually taken place. The lecture helped me visualize the Symposium as a real-life event as Professor Redfield brought each character alive by giving a detailed yet relevant biography. Before sitting through this lecture, the love which Socrates has for his friend Alcibiades only seemed like two very long accounts of love that have little relevance to modern-day life. After James Redfield’s lecture, I could relate to the characters  as I would in my real life. For Socrates, love is just another way to find your true self, the hidden self that can help you determine your path in life. According to James Redfield, Socrates attempts to extract more out of his erotic love than just enjoyment of sexual element of it. Love, for Socrates is an accelerative force to leave a mark in this world.

Redfield very effectively focused on the fact that erotic love for Socrates only remained a way to know his own “self” better. And Socrates wanted to teach this to his lover as well.  In my own life, I have been thinking a lot about finding my own inner thread or what Joseph Campbell calls  ‘following one’s own bliss’. I think that being in love really helps one find this center, a core that defines the very parameters of one’s character. James Redfield also mentions that for Socrates this centre can be found through love. Love is thus a journey one partakes to find one’s true purpose in life as well as a strong sense of being which helps people discover a deeper meaning in their lives. It is basically this desire that the lover has which is to leave a mark behind, to leave a legacy that can affect the beloved. And true love – according to Socrates as Redfield proposes – can help one find this.

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