A classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy. He is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon and the plays of his contemporary Aristophanes.
As for me, all I know is that I know nothing, for when I don’t know what justice is, I’ll hardly know whether it is a kind of virtue or not, or whether a person who has it is happy or unhappy.[Socrates: The Republic, Plato]
The moment Brian Cox says something in his series on the universe or Richard Attenborough reveals another of nature’s little secrets I am reminded of Socrates. “I know nothing!” I learn about stuff from other people talking, not me talking.
|[ABOVE: The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David [By Jacques-Louis David – http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/436105, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28552]|
Dag Hammarskjöld, asked us to remember to stay true to our spirit, true to ourselves in all matters:
Never, for the sake of peace and quiet, deny your own experience or convictions.
Which is a bit like Socrates again: “I would rather die having spoken in my manner, than speak in your manner and live.”
The principle: examine what are my motives, beliefs, understanding (I know nothing), and then… draw something conclusions, think of possible explanations, examine the motives of others… am I living according to the principles which seem most in line with my heart and mind?
Living philosophically is not all about living in the head. The balance, as in all things (“Nothing to excess”, inscribed above the architrave of the Delphi Temple 350BC), brings the most fulfilment. Philosophy is a real life guide to finding that balance and living well.
The Advertiser, an Australian newspaper, published one of the first English-language reviews of The Alchemist in 1993, saying, “of books that I can recommend with the unshakable confidence of having read them and been entranced, impressed, entertained or moved, the universal gift is perhaps a limpid little fable called The Alchemist… In hauntingly spare prose, translated from the Brazilian original in Portuguese, it follows a young Andalusian shepherd into the desert on his quest for a dream and the fulfilment of his destiny.”
Santiago travels to the Pyramids looking for “his treasure”. He meets many people along his way who guide or assist his dream . One outstanding piece of advice he gets is to not be swayed from his journey, his quest, his beliefs. “Always strive to find your Personal Legend.”
Having learned from his encounters his task is now to continue to the Pyramids, to his treasure alone.
Whatever your dream is only you can take that journey. Good luck is with you when you find some others to accompany you on that path… it is likely many will accompany you for a short or long time… we never know who what that may be.
Petronius Arbiter (c. 27 – 66 AD): Yea, I have lived;never shall Fate unkind, Take what was given in that earlier hour. Helen Waddell (1889-1965) translated the latin Pervixi as I have lived thoroughly.
So far we are exhorted to live thoroughly, speak with out fear or favour your own ideas, remember we know nothing and it is better to die living my beliefs than live living yours.
He spent his days in sleep, his nights in attending to his official duties or in amusement, that by his dissolute life he had become as famous as other men by a life of energy, and that he was regarded as no ordinary profligate, but as an accomplished voluptuary. His reckless freedom of speech, being regarded as frankness, procured him popularity. Yet during his provincial government, and later when he held the office of consul, he had shown vigour and capacity for affairs. Afterwards returning to his life of vicious indulgence, he became one of the chosen circle of Nero’s intimates, and was looked upon as an absolute authority on questions of taste (elegantiae arbiter; note the pun on Petronius’ cognomen) in connection with the science of luxurious living. [SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petronius]
Walt Whitman sums it up in one sentence… admittedly quite a long sentence but very well summed up it is. Walt would prefer you sing it out loud:
This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, …
… hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, …
… go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, …
… re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, …
…and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.