September 27, 2006
Is It Wise To Love Wisdom?
We are ongoing with a discussion of Plato's Republic, starring our superstar of all times, Socrates, as he leads a discussion and dialogue that has lasted for thousands of years and still inspires thinkers and ordinary folks through our own day. His message not only has weathered the ages, it still leads the ages in its relevance and challenges us and our often fixed and unchanging points of view about the meaning of our lives. Forced into an all night discussion with some typical wealthy and influential "East Ender" types of ancient Athens, Socrates boldly moves ahead to challenge their most cherished myths and preconceptions.
At one point he speaks of Athens from one perspective as a 'city of sows' that is, a city where people are all too content to take the laws, mores and imperatives of the city as just, lawful and good without realizing what the actual power structure is behind it. Now Socrates is not just a negative guy complaining about the endless problems that we all have with the bureaucracy and social tangles that encumber our lives. No, he has a much more profound goal in mind, nothing short of a total makeover of the social reality called the city, or the state, or the nation.
His goal is to make life rational, to bring human emotions into a balance so that the appetites of lust, aggression and self aggrandizement will be subordinated to the common good in a world where the common good and the actual good of the individual are somehow reconciled and harmonized.
Wow, that is a tall order and Socrates actually knows that his ideals are not going to be implemented any time soon, if ever. Still, he puts it out there so that individuals will have a template, a Northern Star to fix their sights upon and guide them in an ever increasingly better direction. To do so he has to begin with individuals; he has to open the minds of those he meets, those he is able to mentor, such as the young men at that dinner party.
He has the unenviable job of on the one hand debunking much of what they hold to be true and on the other arousing their passion and dedication to his point of view, without at the same time igniting a counterproductive fanaticism in them. He doesn't want to be creating any suicide bomber types, but rather people who will be able to see the world for what it is and then at least in their own life to live as an example of what the good life could be so that others will be inspired to emulate it. Now that is exactly what Socrates is about doing.
His reputation as an oddball, but a very challenging and interesting oddball, is what gets him clients, but also brings down upon him the disapproval of the city fathers who are angry at his ability to shake up the traditional visions in the youth of Athens. It is those traditional visions that the city relies upon to get people to adhere to the laws and if necessary to go out and do battle with the enemies of Athens when called upon to do so. What is the outcome of this dilemma? More next time. Let me know what you think.
Frank Mosca Ph.D. is a licensed counselor, marital and life coach with a practice in Hampton Bays and Garden City. Check out his putting minds in motion seminars by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org.