Plato The Symposium

The value of an idea might be defined by its resonance over time.

I present Plato’s The Symposium as the first addition to the reading list. One of the oldest books I’ve read, the power of the ideas found here have fundamentally changed my life.

That’s why it’s so shocking for me to consider that this was written a staggering 2,400 years ago! The translation I happened to choose, the Walter Hamilton translated 1951 edition for Penguin Classics, deserves credit for this impact as well.

This story is told by Apollodorus of Phaleron talking to Plato about a conversation he had with an acquaintance about a dinner party that Socrates attended.

Most of the story of this dinner revolved around a conversational game played by the men around the table. Each was to give their best defense of love.

Each story is uniquely insightful. My favorite argument is from the playwright Aristophanes, which is the basis for the song “Origin of Love” from the Broadway musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch:

Defending love is a valid use of anyone’s time, I feel.

It’s important for us to understand why we love, how we love and who we love.

Start with love, your interpretation of love, then find those that fit. Don’t attempt to mutate your understanding of love to fit those you’re with. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t.

My understanding of what I wanted in a partner shifted after reading this book. My comprehension of how I interpreted love from others shifted also. I feel this book made me a better human.

This message quietly sat within these pages for two and a half millennia. Surviving anecdotal retelling, transcribing, translating, publishing, distribution and a desired intent to discover now brings this recommendation to you.

Carry this torch if you wish, but trust that I see value in extending the light that this book provides.