“Wisdom begins in wonder.” ~ Socrates
Credited as one of the founders of Western Philosophy, Socrates was considered an enigmatic figure, known chiefly through the accounts of some of his students—Plato being perhaps one of the most famous. I tell you this as a bit of a primer on Socrates, an introduction if you will from that lauded of all resources, Wik E. Pedia. (I know, I know: I should have more respect for the encyclopedic knowledge of Wikipedia—I apologize, for without it, many of my columns would be barren).
Back to Socrates. I have decided to up my game this week, having made the claim that sometimes I get philosophical in my columns at a New Year’s party after perhaps a sip or two more of wine than I am accustomed to (which means I had two glasses—not one). The gentleman I was talking to assumed I was speaking of the classical philosophers and their wisdom and not TV celebrities and self-taught gurus.
Thus, in order to untarnish my lackadaisical reputation, I am going to quote the learned fellow to prove that we can all benefit from the erudite words of intellects, even if we cannot count ourselves among them.
Socrates died in Athens, Greece in 400 B.C. Married to Xanithippe (whom I have on good authority he called Xani) he had three sons. A quote I ran across attributed to the philosopher tells me that he was not necessarily happily married. He is reputed to have said: “By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” Hmm. Methinks he was served cold soup and cold shoulder on the night this saying came to light.
He was also a feminist if I am reading the next quote attributed to him correctly. He said that “Once made equal to man, woman becomes his superior.” Perhaps I am just seeing what I want to see, and he is being not quite as generous as I would like, but grasping at straws is what I do.
Some of the things he is quoted as saying are in my wheelhouse—or to put it another way—we are sympatico. So, without further ado, I present you with some of Socrates’ selected wise words (my comments will be in brackets):
- “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” (Gives us all an excuse).
- “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” (So, it is not just me?).
- “All men’s souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine. (Hope springs eternal—I assume he does not mean self-righteous.)
- “Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou are in it, continue firm and constant.” (If he were not alive so long ago, I would swear he was talking about the perils of the online world.)
- “If all misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be contented to take their own and depart.” (No truer words than these at this moment in my life—what I have to complain about is nothing compared to others.)
- “Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued. (Who can argue with this?)
- “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” (And books.)
- “False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.” (Who cannot subscribe to this? Who has not been hurt by false words?)
- “The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Just don’t look TOO closely.)
- “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have laboured hard for.” (In other words: read, or is that just my disposition showing?)
I do not pretend that this column will serve as a primer to one of the early philosophers, but I have at least fulfilled a mandate I set for myself to put forth the ideas of a thinker, an academic, a truth-seeker, and yes, a dreamer, who is not invested in how he/she looks, sounds, or acts on TV. Not of course that many of these people do not have worthwhile notions—just wanted to show that my depth outwits my (band)width.