Wednesday, November 9, 2011



By Robert Fulghum


It is a credible statistical probability that somewhere among the billions of human beings on Earth there is one person more compatible as a life companion for each one of us than any other.

Reasonable men and women would not argue.

“Right,” we say, “So where’s mine? My soul-mate?”


About 2,400 years ago Plato wrote The Symposium as a rational exploration of love. In his account of a banquet held in honor of Eros, Plato has Aristophanes relate the fable about Zeus dividing the first human beings in half because he was threatened by their power. Forever after, Aristophanes asserts, each person has longed to be reunited with that missing half in order to feel whole again. This yearning for completion is called love. Even Socrates, who was present at the banquet, could not poke enough holes in the idea to sink it. And so, as fairy tales say, it has been to this very day.


However. The odds against any one person finding their perfectly matched exact companion is so statistically improbable that to build one’s hopes on that is like expecting that you will meet Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the supermarket this afternoon.

Even less likely is the possibility that Snow White would be expecting you. Or that her Prince would be in the next aisle over. Or that the Dwarfs would fit into your plans.

Yet the Romantic Fallacy that one will win Destiny’s Lottery is so powerful that the Coast of Love is littered with the wrecks of the starry-eyed mariners who steer their ships onto its rocks, lured by the siren-song of the One and Only. “Here I am. Come and get it,” they sing.

The shallows of Romantic Fallacy become the deep seas of Romantic Fatalism. A good way to drown.


The hollow longing of those whose experience finally convinces them that they have not and will not ever find the Right One is filled with the sweet sorrow of feeling that they have missed a safe landing on Paradise Island by the smallest miscalculation; a vexing kink in the Thread of Chance. “If only . . .” are the first and last words of this lament.

He or She may have been on the next bus; on a previous train; five minutes late; three rows down; in an accident on the way; delayed by rain; or home with the flu that night of the party.

These relentless-but-unfulfilled yearnings shrink our minds to raisins.

We wait. Wait. Wait for love.


And tired of waiting, we go looking. Searching for love. For the One.

To improve the odds in their favor, modern men and women resort to the world-wide-web, personals ads, dating services and singles groups. Most poignant are the “I Saw You” columns. Asking, “Did you see me?” The Girl who glanced at me getting off the ferry. The Man in the red pickup truck at the traffic light. The wrong number phone call that sounded so promising. Somebody else’s blind date. The woman sorting through tomatoes in the salad-bar of the supermarket. The guy leaving the coffee shop last Friday. The distant figure at the rail of a passing ship.

Pulse pounding from the provocative possibility, we implore:

“Did you see me?”


No. No. They weren’t looking for you.

Hide and seek and hide and seek and hide and seek . . .

If waiting does not pay off, and searching does not pay off, What . . . ?

We make do. Take the pick of the litter available. Concede and compromise. Her or him as well as another. In a mood of Now-or-Never, and determined to turn Better-Than-Nothing into As-Good-As-Can-Be-Expected, we act with gritty determination to make acceptable what is only an inadequate substitute for the Man or Woman of Our Dreams.

Sometimes it actually works out pretty well. Sometimes. But even the best the statistical odds are 50-50. Heads or tails. Call it. Never a sure thing, but a chance we take because we believe in a Love that can overcome anything, despite repeated and ongoing evidence to the contrary.


But suppose. Just suppose. That once in a lifetime the person most suitable for you appears. How will you know? How will they know? What’s the secret sign? And what if it happens on a bad day, when you are hung over or have a cold or they went out of their house in their shabbiest clothes just to get milk? Will you still know, no matter what?

Would a committee of ten thousand wise elders, psychologists, marriage counselors, and frenzied family and friends be any help? Or is Destiny strong enough to overcome any and all obstacles?


Even more important is this consideration:

Would you expect to recognize the One instantly? Love at first sight?

Or would you know only after a life-long companionship?

Is Big Love made in Heaven or lived into on Earth?

And since living with another person is always a tidal matter of the ebb and flow of good and bad, workable and unworkable, seasons and times and weather, age and chance, who can ever say for certain, at the beginning, the end, or in the middle: This was the One?