|10 Apr 2002 @ 10:08, by Biophilos|
Biophilos/Friends of Wisdom
Socrates , Athens, 469-399
source Diogenes Laertius, vol 1
edited and comments by
He engaged in argument with anyone who would converse with him , his aim being not to alter opinion but to get at the truth.
About Socrates it is said that he was a man of great independence and dignity. He was very orderly in his life. Lived simply , and desired not the complications of material responsibility. Thus being freer to pursue his passion for the truth , thru the vehicle of Philosophy, and Dialectic,
He was married, had two wives, and two sons. His profession was that of a stone sculptor, and mason. It is said that he was involved in the work on the seven maidens which to this day is still present on the Acropolis in Athens, but is unfortunately damaged , by excessive pollution in the air causing erosion of the marble from which the statues are made.
It is interesting to note that unlike the sophists, he never asked a fee, but remained independent from the obligations created thru the exchange of money. He did though accept gifts from his pupils and friends if he deemed them to be given in the right spirit, or did not come from soiled sources of wealth.
He used to say that he who had the fewest wants was nearest to the gods.
He said that of all the possessions the best was leisure especially when applied rightly. That the only evil was ignorance, and the only good , knowledge.
In his old age he learned to play the Lyra, declaring that he saw no absurdity in learning a new accomplishment even when considered by others as old.
It was his regular habit to dance, believing, that such exercise kept the body in good health and condition, and claimed though of great renown in Athens , That he knew nothing except his own ignorance.
He said that virtue for a young man consists in ' doing nothing to excess' the Delphic saying, pan metro ariston,
though , I would like to add here that the text in Diogenes reads, to mithen agan, which to me can be taken , since it is advise given to youth,
---do nothing to destroy your purity.
Just to side track for a moment, it seems that the unfortunate result of translation is , firstly the vast difference of time in the usage and understanding of the language, secondly the fact that the translators major language , the one he or she thinks in , is in most cases usually not the language he is translating, thirdly the misinterpretation that can happen thru the getting of a different picture by the translator then what the author was viewing due to the circumstances of life at the time it was written. Such unfortunately is the fate of language. Until we can master other forms of higher and more precise communication, which can , it appears to me, come about thru the conditions of mutual trust, and safety, assisted by the feelings of compassion and care, sincerity, and finally most importantly , Love, we will remain behind our facades of misunderstandings, and camouflage , living our isolated lives of compromising diplomacy in spiritual loneliness , losers of the true wealth, of communion, and mutual happiness, given us freely as an inheritance of the higher essences and powers co-existing with us and sharing the wonderful , tragic, and awesome dynamic playground of life.
Returning to Socrates.
Someone once asked him which would be better to marry or not? He answered, which ever you do
you shall repent of it.
He used to express his astonishment at the fact that the sculptors would take great pains with blocks of marble, to fashion them into prefect likeness of men, but that the sculptors would not take as great pains in sculpting themselves not to be blocks of stone, but worthy men.
He recommended the use of the mirror for the handsome that they not fall prey to their vanity, but learn to acquire a
corresponding behavior, and ugly men that they may conceal their defects by education.
He used to say that while other men lived to eat , he ate to live, and ,
that Philosophy begins first with a full stomach.
When some one said to him that he was condemned to death by the Athenians, he replied so to are they, by Nature.
When his wife stated that he was suffering unjustly, he replied , would that you would have me suffer justly?
When a certain person spoke to him in a matter of abuse and ill words , he said, true for he has never learned to speak well.
When Antisthenes, the Cynic, who was one of his pupils, turned his cloak toward him that he may see the whole in it , he replied, Antisthenes, I see your vanity thru the whole in your cloak.
He declared himself to be , politis tis gies, meaning a citizen of the Earth. Apparently the idea is not new. 2500 years have passed approximately and still we are a rotating sphere traveling thru space at about 1,600,000 miles a day , divided, and fragmentized, living with artificial boundaries, not trusting one another, not learning the laws of harmony that should be applied to community , its productive and secure mutual life.
He was once asked what law he follows, and he said , when I am with men I follow the laws of men, but when I am alone I follow the laws of the Universe. Does not this seem to be similar to " render unto Caesar what is his and unto God what is God's".
And so---we come to the end of our little journey thru words about , Socrates. Just a little breeze of wind skirting across the surface of the water, causing a small pattern of transitory ripples, leaving the depth undisturbed.
In closing I would like to say that Socrates was declared by the psychic Priestess of Delphi, a sacred site of divination to the Ancient Greeks, to be the wisest of all in Greece , but that he himself never succumbed to the attraction of fame or vanity. His sole pride was the Essence feeling of his own Humility before the grandness and infinitude of knowledge and therefore declared himself , in all sincerity, to know only one thing , his own ignorance.
He used a form of conversion used by the Ancient Greek Philosophers known as 'Dialectic' which literally means, sorting .
Dialectic was used to search for the Truth as it relates to a chosen topic of conversation and aimed at a mutual understanding and agreement that would or could bring all participants closer to the desire to ' know themselves' , and what it is that truly dwells within them, and is aligned with the Beautiful, the Good, the One, the True, the Just.
He was sentenced to death by a trial and mockery of Justice in Athens, on charges drawn out of jealousy, envy, wounded vanity , and arrogant pride. The charges were impiety, and corrupting the youth.
Does this not connect with these statements:
" blessed are they which are persecuted for Justice sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you , and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against your falsely, for my sake. rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven" Matthew 5,10--12
Democritus who said:
" those who hate injustice are dear to the gods"
He was taken to prison on Philopappou Hill, opposite the Acropolis, and despite being offered a means of escape thru bribery, refused, and drank the Hemlock in stand of his Principles. He was 70 years old when he passed away.
His discourses while in prison and before his death are recorded by Plato , who was at that time very young, I believe about 19, of noble and aristocratic family , and enamored of the old , charismatic, and grand Philosopher.
For those who may have enjoyed the snack, and may wish to have a main meal, to delve deeper into the Philosophy of Socrates, and Plato , there remain the Dialogues of Plato, and Xenophon's work on him. The rest is bits preserved here and there from various sources.
I would like to end here with a personal experience that I had when I was young, about 20, when I visited and stayed in Greece many years ago. Then there was not the clamor of tourism as there is now. It was during the off season when there was not many people scurrying about.
I visited the prison where Socrates was confined, to pay my respects , and to honor the memory of a great man
who inspired many great philosophers that were to follow him.
I was alone----it was Autumn , A Thunder Storm passed over echoing in anger and raining in distant sadness.When it stopped, a brilliant blue sky opened , the pine trees surrounding the area began to magically sparkle decorated with colorful crystalline rainbow dew drops as the clear light traveled thru their delicate earthy green needles.
In the distance thru the trees , the Acropolis, appeared , in its damaged beauty.
I felt thoughts whirling in me, like some Mystic Dervish Dance, I was swept away and pondered what it must have been like when Socrates took the Hemlock and bid his friends goodbye.
I thought to myself, what , Cebes, Simmias, Crito, Plato and the others must have felt as they came out of the prison, and gazed at the glory of the Acropolis, crowned by the brilliant white Parian Marble Temple of Wisdom ,
dedicated to Athena .
What a great weight of sorrow must have been upon their Souls!
Those who have lost a good friend will know what I mean.
Truly as the Classical Greeks embodied in their plays , there is a tragic element to the grand kaleidoscope of life,
and .....it seems, only Wisdom as Socrates pointed out, is the panacea for a despairing and sorrowing Soul.
All Rights Reserved