You come and buy in the market and go back to your homes laden with goods, but the spell of the homeless winds has touched me I know not when and where. To be a true student, must one go this far, leave behind all one's belongings except for a few choice books? But there are such magnetically wonderful topics to travel over: truth; love. One may indeed stop worrying over petty affairs for a moment before such themes as: the resolution of doubt. Or the dispelling of manifold illusions. Surely this concerns us! If it were not for the clearer canvas of overall abstractions like Ideal or Better, one wonders what composition of a life one hopes to achieve. Today, however, the "man willing to bury himself in the details of some small endeavor has been considered lost to these larger considerations which must occupy the mind of a ruler."
I will come to the source of the quotation below; for now, I wonder about the ruler. Just yesterday I read in Plato's (spurious?) dialogue Alcibiades Socrates' advice to the 20-something future statesman whose speech and expectations sound - 'millennial'. Socrates shows that a man who does not know himself (via pain and skill) cannot rule others, for he will not even know what is in his possession and what is not. In a wonderful pedagogical moment, Socrates asks whether that Delphic maxim to know oneself was written for "a mere scamp" or whether it was too difficult for anybody to realise. To have that knowledge, Socrates shows, is to know what pains one is to take over oneself (i.e. one's body that is used by the soul). The soul is important because it is a person's essence; the body is fallible because when one grows old, one may be abandoned (if one is loved by none). "For if a man, my dear Alcibiades, is at liberty to do what he pleases, but is lacking in mind, what is the probable result to him personally, or to the state as well?"
The mind is to seek Greater Things. Naive Alcibiades begins content to compare himself with the slave- hairdoed people of his midst but Socrates shows him he should to compare himself to his foreign rivals, some of whom include ... Spartan queens (123)! Though barbarians, they may know far more than this Greek who is then a shame also to his own people. I am no feminist but am beginning to wonder of the role of the wise woman in times of austerity. Sparta was austere enough. Socrates was taught by a woman priestess whose austere situation was none other than Delphi. There is a story of Queen Jelena of Bosnia in the town of Bobovac that no longer exists, who, when attacked by the Turks, had the idea to escape to a mountain tunnel - remembering to have her people put the shoes on their horses backwards so the Turks would think they had fled in the opposite direction. She also ordered her people to wear white costumes to improve their hygiene (as the dirt would be more apparent). I think too of all of the ancient princesses buried with daggers. After all, these women (Socrates' Diotima is said to have postponed the plague) were rulers. And to rule always involves adversity: specifics can tie down that which is lofty.
Lofty could also be καλὸς κἀγαθός, which I think people criticise because of the mistaken expectation that ideals can actually be reached instead of directing our striving in life (also eager to expose others' failings instead of understanding the wisdom of knowing when to hide others' shortcomings - admittedly a complex matter). Robert Coles has written about the need for the moral imagination. Like Socrates, he points out that it begins when people begin to know themselves, like the doctor who begins to see his own shortcomings not just those of his patients. "Why did the question of what living is for disappear from the roster of questions our colleges and universities address in a deliberate and disciplined way? What is the source of the appeal of the research ideal, and why is it so hostile to this question?" Anthony Kronman asks, quoted in a New Criterion article on education by Steven Hayward. There is adversity in these big questions; they take work - the complex mind is to be built but to be warned that not all that is built is beautiful.
"The pedantic empiricist, buried in his little province of phenomena, imagines that fidelity to it exempts him from concern with larger aspects of reality" writes Richard Weaver (Ideas Have Consequences) also quoted by Hayward (and quoted in paragraph one). Those larger aspects of reality may be ethical. "But as for merchants, their holdings are increased by false oaths, the art of becoming rich is to show contempt toward the gods, and they sail to every city, doing this evil, lying, deceiving, and misleading. And whoever knows how to do this best will come away richest," writes Libanius in Progymnasmata (does anyone know where I can find a used copy?) It may be contrasted to Socrates' remark to Alcibiades: "It is not he who has made himself rich that is relieved of wretchedness but he who has made himself temperate." To have vices is to be enslaved. This is a simple truth that should be a prerequisite to any theology or 'science' (to divide them as does Dante in The Divine Comedy). The mind of the ruler of the self is aware of the pitfalls of habit, though it seems that some are more talented than others in freeing themselves from such.
This questions whether everyone is fit to be a ruler, which is definitely not a politically correct observation. But to not bring certain (thoughtful) points up because they are unpopular means totalitarianism. Also: to bring them up does not mean that everyone needs to agree. To not have time for other viewpoints: what kind of ruler would such a person be, what kind of an example is that. The art of diplomacy is lost to the warring of factions. Ah yes, this can be taken from the ancient Greeks but not their philosophy! Because it was taught by dead white males. Though I hope to have contested that, at least in part above. One little mind tries to do its part to see out of itself, in the mirror of pupils.
You may smile, my friends, but I pursue the vision that eludes me. I run across hills and dales, I wander through nameless lands, because I am hunting for the golden stag.
Magazine: Marie Claire Idees. Brush: Ewansim grunge at DevientART.