The drinking party – where Plato stages his great discussion on Eros (The Symposium) was not a quiet and deliberative discussion in fact, the Greeks of the day could not have imagine such an inquiry into the matters of the heart anywhere but in an atmosphere suffused with the playful, passionate and erotic scene of party boys and girls serving – drinks and food – all types of slithering and cavorting bodies. Plato demonstrated that even beyond his own tempered stand – for those of his world he had to go beyond the sterile stones of the market and merely intellectualizing to the tension filled and suggestive back room to harvest the real source of “longing”.
His work on Eros is a common subtext to many of our attempts to name and secure love and end longing in our relationships. It was there where the often repeated story of “soul mates” was passed into prosperity – how Zeus’s jealousy of the power of human’s caused him to instruct Eros – the god of desire – to split the androgynous into males and females that would be destined to a life of searching; there too was Socrates’ who spun his version of female rape which produces Eros (the spirit of desire). For Eros is the child of Poverty (the female protagonist), who came to Aphrodite’s party uninvited as a beggar, and where she had her way with the drunken and passed out god of Plenty, producing the son child Eros. Eros, according to Socrates takes after his mother. Constantly in need, he is “hard, unkempt, barefoot, and homeless.” But, like his father, he is “brave, enterprising, and determined.” Having inherited an eye for beauty and the good – Eros continually searches for these two qualities through love, as befits one conceived in the presence of Aphrodite.
Now – with the staged set for our own private players to step upon the stage – share with me a story from either your imagination or life about a lesson learn from a drinking party. I’ll start with one from my life – my first drinking party. I was twelve – I lived on the Eastside of Detroit, son to a middle class, but older, set of parents. I best describe myself as an only child for my brother is thirteen years older than I am. So by this time he had already left to begin his adventure to live in Europe, leaving me to learn life’s lessons from questionable sources.
I was the youngest in the gang that I hung with – there were 12 or 15 of us that lived on the same block – St. Clair between Mack and Canfield. Most all of them had older brothers and or sisters to guide them in some fashion. We are all mostly middle class – our parents owned the homes we lived – most worked for one or another car company – a couple owned their own business (serving the community in one fashion or other).
The main spot of hipness in Detroit at the time was the Greystone ballroom on Woodward and Canfield. You were supposed to be 15 or 16 to get in for the Friday night bash. I had never gone – but Kenny and Sheppard had – so they were able to sway my mother so as to let me go with them. After that it was on – we went to the corner store and found someone willing to buy us a couple of bottles of Cask 59. If you can imagine a port wine that would cost $.59 there we were drinking in the alley of Garland and Mack. I think I took two or three long swigs before the taste made me gag. But there was no stopping me now. Next thing I remember is lying under a newspaper stand on Canfield wondering how I was going to get home. Then an angel of sorts found me – Geraldine, her family lived two doors from me, ask me what was I doing – squirting gibberish out at her she knew my problem. She got me to my feet then somehow into the Greystone and to a chair where I sit or slept the reminder of the night. Somewhere in my memory I think Ray Charles was on the bandstand – but I’m not sure.
The only thing I am sure of is on the way home I overheard a conversation between Geraldine and who I later learn was her pimp the following: “A pole can never wear out hole”! For years whenever I think back to that night I wondered what they could have meant. For many years I thought the simple explanation was that woman out last men no matter the efforts men might exert. Then again, as I have read such feminist as Belle Hooks or Kristiva or to the myth of Lilith it took on a very different sensibility. The lesson I finally have taken away from that night is an obligation towards feminist strength and caring.
So with my story of a drinking party as a comparison or beginning – what’s yours?