On subject of soul mates, some believe, some don't

BALTAMOUR

August 18, 2007|By MARYANN JAMES

When it comes to soul mates, it's a matter of faith. You believe or you don't.

There are some big-time believers. Greek philosopher Plato wrote in his Symposium that humans have been looking for their soul mate since Zeus cut them in half. Oprah devoted an issue of her magazine to the subject of romantic destiny: The karmic psychic was skeptical, but the Catholic priest was all for it.

New-age gurus take the spontaneity out of love with their belief that everyone has already found his or her soul mate - just in a past life.

And if that isn't weird enough for you, another school of thought says that people seek out romantic partners who look and act like previous incarnations of themselves.

I, for one, am skeptical of all this soul-mate talk. These are all nice ideas, but they belong in fairy tales. If belief in soul mates is a religion, call me an agnostic.

Chau Vuong, who started solvedating.com about four years ago, is one of the faithful, but with a twist. He says that there is a match for everyone and he has a "soul mate calculator" to prove it. The former investment banker with a doctorate in pharmacology created an online tool that prompts a dater to answer a few questions about his or her ideal mate. The tool then calculates an estimate of how likely it is to find that person.

"I created that site because some people don't know how to do math," he says.

Vuong, who is based in Southern California, says that most people don't find their match or soul mate because they're too inflexible or have too many unrealistic expectations.

"It's like a market economy," he says. "You value yourself higher than you are. You have to be realistic about what you have to offer."

If you come face-to-face with the slim probability of finding a tall, dark and handsome doctor who rates in the 90th percentile of every category, perhaps you will tone down your standards and find five people who could be your soul mate, he says.

Though she was suspicious of Vuong's approach, Evie Schwartz of Roland Park thinks that he's on the right track. Schwartz, 18, says there are too many people out there for each person to have just one match.

"You may feel that way" when you're in love, Schwartz says, "but they're one of many."

But there are still the hardcore believers out there.

Kevin Blackwell, 40, of West Baltimore says that he used to date many women at the same time, one person to fit each personality trait he was looking for.

"I was used to having four, five women to match up to one [ideal woman]," he says. He says he's now focused on finding his soul mate. He says he hasn't found her yet, but he knows she's out there.

But how does he know there's only one match for him?

He says that just because he can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there. "I don't know there's a god, but I believe it," he says.

Mary Carter, 17, said she already has had her fair share of breakups, but agrees with Blackwell.

"I don't question God about why he brings around ignorant guys; I learned something from each of them," says the girl from West Baltimore. "Once I get my life in order ... he'll bring along the one."

I can't subscribe to their line of thinking, but I can't knock their faith. But I think I prefer Vuong's analytical approach.

Vuong does not pretend to be any expert on dating. His definition of "soul mate" is unconventional, and his take on finding one is not the most romantic, either, but I dig it. Soul mates are nice ideas for bedtime stories, but relationships sometimes need a realistic look. And even if you find someone who seems to be perfectly matched to you, the relationship will still require real work.

And just because you're rational doesn't mean you're not romantic. Vuong says he's still looking for the right person, too - he has a promising date tonight, he says.

"My dad always told me, no matter how much you make, your wife will make your happiness."

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