The messenger followed Sacred Way up the steep mountainside. Even though it was early morning, the string of supplicants was long and followed the steep and twisted road. The messenger forced himself to be patient even though he knew his master would want an answer as soon as possible. He took his proper place at the end of the line. It would not be wise to antagonize Pythias, the Priestess of Apollo. Was there anything he had forgotten? The proper offerings made? Yes. The proper sacrifices completed? Yes. His master had also deposited great amounts of money in the Lydian Treasury for the use of Apollo.
His master could well afford the vast expenses. Croesus was the richest king in the world. With tribute from the Greek mainland paid to his capital, Sardis, on the Western coast of Asia Minor, Croesus had become wealthy beyond measure. With Persia, the mighty empire under Cyrus the Great, in turmoil from an internal revolt, Croesus knew that if he were ever going to extend his empire eastward now would be the time. But Croesus did not become so wealthy by careless actions. He decided to consult the Oracle at Delphi.
As the line of beseechers moved slowly, the messenger reviewed the question his master wanted. It was a simple question after all: What will happen if Croesus attacks the Persians?
Yes, a simple question requiring a simple answer. Much depended on the answer. The Oracle of Delphi honoring the god Apollo never lied. Apollo was the god of light, reason, and clarity. His wisdom was sought by all far and wide. If one followed the advice of the Priestess who spoke for Apollo, one couldn't go wrong.
The man moved past the Athenian Treasury and the Corinthian Treasury. Finally it passed the Lydian Treasury containing the vast riches of Croesus sent weeks earlier. The sun rose higher in the sky, and the messenger began to sweat as the morning coolness disappeared.
At last, he completed the final turn and the temple lay before him. He approached it with proper respect and courtesy and waited as an attendant announced his arrival.
He entered an outer court and after a short wait was led into a smaller, dimly lit chamber where the Pythias sat in her famous tripod, the three-legged stool. Under the tripod a deep cleft in the rock produced vapor, steam, and fumes. The heat of the room, the soaring pillars, frescoed ceilings and gilt furniture overwhelmed the messenger.
“Approach, my child. What is it you seek? Why do you seek the wisdom of the powerful god, Apollo? Come and your questions shall be answered and your concerns relieved. Speak and you shall be heard.”
“Great Pythias, powerful seer of the Great God Apollo. My master, Croesus, seeks the wise and eternal wisdom of the speaker of truth and the bringer of light, Phobos Apollo, whose word is law and whose wisdom is known far across the mighty seas and distant lands. It is of him I ask this question for my master, Croesus.”
“Ask and you shall be answered.”
“Oh Wondrous Priestess, my master’s question is plain. It is this: What will happen if my Master, Croesus, attacks the Persians? May the great god Apollo answer clearly.”
The Pythias frowning turned to an attendant. “Have the proper tributes and sacrifices been paid?”
The Pythias spoke to the messenger. “Return tomorrow and I will have an answer.” The messenger bowed and left.
The next morning, the messenger was called into the holy room. He waited expectantly. The Pythias sat on the sacred tripod. After several minutes, she spoke in a dark liquid voice with a brooding and echoing quality.
“Apollo, teacher, revealer of all mysteries, knower of all secrets of Heaven and of the earth; Apollo, speak to me now. Speak your holy voice so that all may know your wisdom and truth. Speak that the world may see your knowledge. Speak that the mighty Croesus will understand the truth you give. Speak oh mighty one.” The Pythias fell silent as she breathed of the blessed fumes.
The messenger waited as a hard fist of fear suddenly knotted and writhed in his stomach. A chill grabbed him. A dark premonition fell on him. He held his breath.
The Pythias tightened. She threw back her head and screamed a guttural cry of terror. Her body became rigid and her wise little eyes clouded with hazy sadness as she finally spoke. “Oh noble and kind messenger, Apollo has spoken. Know what he has revealed. Death and destruction will come to a mighty army and to a mighty man. A great army shall fall and a great kingdom shall be destroyed. The noble fields shall bear no more grain; weeping mothers shall not bear; afflictions shall have no end. If Croesus crosses the Halys River, he shall destroy a mighty kingdom. This is the truth of Apollo. Know that he has spoken. You are now dismissed.”
East of the Halys River
“Have reports come from the battle?” Croesus turned his horse to his youngest son.
“We await the arrival of messengers from the generals,” The young man turned to the East and shifted position on his horse. Prickles of tightness pinched his heart. “I think the messenger is arriving now.” He pointed to a cloud of dust hanging over the horizon. Both men waited with anticipation as the messenger approached.
The messenger jumped from his horse. “Your majesty, I bring news from the battle.” The messenger bowed.
“Well speak, man. How goes the battle?”
“Oh mighty King. Our armies fought valiantly. They inflicted many wounds and deaths on the enemy. Nevertheless, it was to no avail. Great disaster has fallen on your armies. Our horses which have always gained victory over our enemies were thwarted by the camels of Cyrus. The odorous beasts upset our horses and they reared and refused to ride against the camels of the enemy. All is lost. Even now Cyrus approaches the Halys. Flee mighty King. Flee.”
“How can this be? Apollo never lies and has told me that a great army would be destroyed if I attacked the Persians. Didn’t you tell me that he said that? How can this be?” Croesus shouted at the messenger with sudden raw and angry words.
“Father, he did report Apollo’s message word for word. He even wrote it down.”
“Apollo told me that a great army would be destroyed,” answered Croesus.
“But Father, a great army was destroyed.” Croesus’ son answered. They dismissed the messenger.
As the messenger left, he thought to himself that maybe the King asked the wrong question.
“I never did trust the bitch anyway.” Western Thought leaned back in his chair and folded his hands in front of his face. “She never told the truth; she always misled people. Look what happened to Croesus. Thank God we don’t have the Oracle today.”
Western Thought, a man worn down by centuries of defeat, leaned back in his chair. His aged eyes, creased by worries and wrinkles, stared back at the Therapist. His formerly white toga, now yellowed, needed a good bleach bath. His hunched back, bowed by the weight of centuries and the burdens of the world, formed a basketball-sized depression in the soft leather foam of the Therapist’s chair.
The therapist leaned back in her chair. She was an attractive woman of indeterminable age. One sensed an ageless wisdom, timeless and eternal, yet with the seductiveness and wholesomeness of youth. She had all the bloom of summer, yet the wisdom of winter. Her hair was shiny-brown with Medusa-style locks. She was beautiful with the bounteous magnificence of an earth mother.
Her eyes were wise, bright and bemused. They missed nothing. They held laughter and sadness as if they had witnessed an eternity of human foibles. Yet those eyes had never seen such a spectacle as the one who sat before her.
She sighed. He was going to be a difficult person to work with. “How can you be so sure that the Oracle no longer exists?”
“That’s crazy! Of course there’s no Oracle today; it’s just a fairy tale.”
“I just want you to check out your assumptions. Are you so sure there’s no longer any Oracle? What are political polls? Surveys? Research? Or even the TV ratings? How about people who visit astrologers? Maybe…,” she leaned forward, “the original Oracle is still around. She might show up and surprise you.
“Let’s talk about your anger with the Oracle,” she continued. “Where do you think this comes from?”
“I suppose from my childhood.”
“Before we get into that Mr. Thought,” she said, switching tactics, “let’s talk about why you are here since this is your first session. Your intake form says you are confused, angry and upset with how you think people see you. Could you shed further light on that?”
“First, you can call me Wes, or even Wesley. I don’t like my real name Western Thought.
“It’s just that…I don’t know…maybe I am damned sick and tired about what people say about me. They keep making up stories about me that aren’t true . It confuses me. I don’t know who I am anymore.…” WT twisted his hands together as if he wanted to strangle someone. His face became flushed and then red.
“For example, that damned psycho, Alfred North Whitehead, said,” Wesley shouted, “that I, Western Thought, was nothing more than a footnote to Plato. As if Plato was so damned almighty that I was nothing more than an appendage to Plato. That I wouldn’t even be in existence if he hadn’t been around. I’ll have you know that I have been around for centuries! I lived before Plato was born and I still outlive him. Who is this asshole, Whitehead, to say I am a footnote? Where does he get off saying that?”
The therapist had to defuse what was rapidly becoming an angry client. “Let’s get a little family background,” she said. “Tell me about your parents and childhood.”
“Most people don’t know about the Thought Family. My mom, Pythias, and my father, Cronus, a Titan, were descended from Tartarus, the son of Chaos. Tartarus was not only a god, but also a place, the realm of Hades. Hades was the place where the dead would go. The Thoughts had three children, me, who they called Western, and my sister who they called Eastern. Another son disappeared under weird circumstances.’
“What were they? The circumstances, I mean.”
“I don’t really feel comfortable talking about it now.”
“Wasn’t Pythias the Oracle of Delphi?”
“Yeah, I don’t like to talk about it much. So what? The Oracle of Delphi was my mom. So what?”
Now we’re getting somewhere, the Therapist thought. He clearly had maternal issues. This would take some time; after all he had centuries of problems to deal with.
“How did you and your mom get along?” The Therapist asked.
“She was always a bossy bitch. She’d never answer questions clearly; she spoke in riddles and puzzles. Drove me crazy! One time I asked if we could go to the seashore. Know what she said? ‘That the sea was a place where unknown mysteries could be found and solved.’ What the hell was all that about?”
“What about your sister, Eastern?”
“Eastern Thought! Now she’s a piece of work! That ditzy airhead belongs out in space somewhere. Always talking about Zen or some mystical being somewhere. I don’t pay her much mind. She makes no sense to me.”
“And your father, Cronus?”
“I guess you might as well know. It’ll come out anyway. My old man was one scary dude. Not only did he castrate his own old man, a Pythian prophecy warned him that his own sons would overthrow him. He actually gobbled up my older brother and tried to gulp down me as soon as I was born. One of the gods saved me by substituting a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes. Must have been one hell of a problem passing it.
“They hid me away on the island of Crete until I grew up. When I returned home I made sure he got sent to Hades.”
“So, your mother prophesized that you or your brother would grow up and overthrow your father.” No wonder the guy has problems, she thought. I can’t decide if he needs family therapy or anger management.
“Well our time is up for today,” the Therapist said, looking at her watch. The next session we’ll follow up on today and explore more about your complaint.”
“This can’t be right. She has to be wrong. Chaerephon, what were you thinking? Why would you do that? Why would you even think about asking her that?” Socrates clearly was annoyed.
“But Socrates, I only asked if there was anyone wiser than you? The Pythias said that you were the wisest person on the earth.”
“Thanks a lot, Chaerephon,” Socrates sighed. “I guess I’ll have to go and prove her wrong. She probably won’t look kindly on that. I know I am not a wise person. I know nothing except my ignorance. I will ask a person that I know is wise, a politician. Perhaps he can help me disprove the Oracle.”
* * *
Anytus walked into the agora. The marketplace was crowded this morning. Farmers from the outlying villages streamed into the marketplace filling stalls and selling fresh produce, olives, tomatoes, and corn. Some sold wineskins filled with fresh pressed wine.
Noises from vendors hawking their wares, and the discreet sound of a donkey cart behind him filled his ears. Caged roosters crowed, chickens clucked and sheep bleated. Smells of fresh produce mixed with donkey sweat filled his nostrils.
This is the perfect time and place to begin my political campaign, he thought. The hoi polloi will buy into anything. Anytus stood on a large rock and began speaking to the crowd. “Men of Athens,” he yelled, trying to overcome the noise of the marketplace. “I speak to you today because I am running for the Boule, the Council of 500. I ask for your vote. I am qualified to serve you because I not only believe in the gods of the city, but also will follow their rules and laws. We all know that the gods know everything and are always right. If we only follow the gods and their laws, we will prosper. We need to return to the values of old, family, the gods, country.” He smirked to himself, these ignorant boobs will vote for anybody.
“As a council member, I will promise to responsibly oversee, the many boards and magistrates that make up the Assembly and I will oppose those who speak out against the laws of the gods for they are eternal and everlasting. When I am in office, I will make daily sacrifices to the gods. I will make Athens a city founded on the laws of the gods…”
“A question, Anytus, if I may.”
“Of course. Who is it that speaks? The sun is in my eyes and I cannot see you clearly.”
“It’s Socrates!” someone yelled. The crowd waited expecting to see verbal blood drawn.
By the gods, it’s that accursed Socrates. Anytus smiled to the crowd but his gritted teeth and clenched hands looked as if they would like to strangle someone’s throat. “Of course, Socrates.”
“Do the gods know everything?” Socrates asked.
“Certainly, because they are gods.” Like helloo, you idiot, Anytus thought. He squinted into the sun trying to locate Socrates.
“Therefore, since you obey the gods you must always be right.”
“If I follow the laws of the gods, I cannot be wrong.” His chest swelled proudly.
“Forgive my ignorance. Tell me. Do some gods disagree with other gods?”
“Of course, Homer tells us that.”
“So the gods disagree about what is true and what is right?”
“I suppose so.”
“So some gods can be wrong sometimes?”
“I suppose that is true , ” he said hesitantly. He could see where this was going, but it was too late to back out now. Like a runaway cart pulled by frightened horses the questions kept coming.
“So it is possible that you can be wrong sometimes if you follow the wrong god.” As the crowd laughed and jeered at Anytus’ embarrassment, Socrates walked away, muttering to himself, “I thought the politicians were wiser than me but I guess I was wrong. I must ask another person who might be wiser then me, a poet. I see Meletus, the poet, over there. I’ll ask him.”
* * *
Meletus, paused by the stand of a wine merchant. He planned to read Hesiod’s Works and Days to the public market. He would argue that reading the great works of Homer and the poets would show the youth of the city how to live a just and virtuous life. He strongly believed that studying the great heroes of the past such as Odysseus would demonstrate how to live such lives.
Poets such as him could lead in this effort by teaching and demonstrating how to live. Of course, he thought, it wouldn’t hurt to be paid for his readings.
He climbed up the Areopagus, a large rock that many used to make public speeches. Gathering a small crowd, he began by explaining that reading and learning about the poets would help the youth of the city to lead uncorrupt lives. He offered personal instruction for a small fee.
As he began his reading, a voice, lifted in a shout, stopped everything dead. “Meletus, A question if you don’t mind.”
Meletus squinted into the morning sun. “’Who asks a question? I am happy to answer any and all questions.”
“It is me, Socrates.”
By Zeus! This annoying ass is braying again!, he thought. How can I shut him up?
“Meletus, isn’t it very important that the youth become the very best people possible?”
“Well, Meletus, what will make them better?”
“Is there any person who knows the laws?”
“Are these men able to educate them well and do they make the youth better?”
“Of course.” Meletus shifted on his feet.
“All of the judges? Or some of them? And are there any that do not do a good job at educating the young?”
“All of them are excellent educators.”
“Does this include the councilmen?”
“And how about the assemblymen?”
“And how about the people here listening to you?
“Is there anyone who does corrupt them?”
“Well, Socrates, since you asked, you corrupt them. You corrupt them by teaching them to question the gods and the laws.” Meletus stepped back with a smug look.
“So you are saying that I alone among all the Athenians, corrupt the youth of the city?”
“Yes, Socrates, you alone. Because you do not believe in the gods of the city, but in the lesser gods.”
“Tell me, Meletus, are a few or is everyone an expert on horsemanship?”
“And are only a few or many an expert at flute playing?”
“Only a few.”
“Does anyone believe in flute playing but not in a flute: Horsemanship but not in a horse? In human matters but not in humans? If a flute player exists, a flute must exist. If skilled horsemanship exists, a horse must exist. And yet you say that I do not believe in the gods of the city, but in lesser gods. You admit I believe in new divinities, and you call these minor-gods. Are these not the sons of gods? If sons of gods exist, their fathers the gods exist also.”
Socrates turned to the growing crowd. “Men of Athens, this man, one of the poets, claims I do injustice by not believing in gods but in believing in gods. This is a riddle, men of Athens; either Meletus is pulling a fast one on you or he is full of unrestrained hubris.”
Meletus stood in disbelief as the crowds wandered away, laughing at him and joking among themselves. Socrates wandered off wondering where he could find a man wiser them him. He stared across the crowds. There is Lycon, the orator. I’ll ask him if he is a wise man. Perhaps he will answer the Pythias’ prophecy.
* * *
Lycon saw Socrates coming and tried to hide in the crowds. Lycon was a sophist, one of those who believed that truth is subjective and relative. He was a follower of Protagoras, an earlier sophist who taught that man was the measure of all things. Lycon believed that each argument has two sides and that both points of view are equally valid.
Thus, Lycon claimed, that what is true for one person might be false for another. He rejected the belief that truth and morality are absolute. Something is good or bad depending on view of the person or society.
An example he liked to give to his students was a familiar one from Protagoras. Two men, one from Ethiopia, and the other from northern Europe were visiting Athens on a warm spring day. The Ethiopian says the weather in cold; the northern European says that the weather is hot. Both speak the truth, which is relative and depends on ones perspective.
One could not ask for more diametrically opposing views than those between Socrates and the sophists, Socrates who believed that truth was absolute and the sophists like Lycon who claimed that truth was relative. This war of ideas continues far into the future. A war between those who think truth is relative and those who think that truth is absolute.
Socrates saw Lycon and ran after him. “Lycon, I need some advice; can you help me?” The crowd expecting their third entertainment of the morning blocked Lycon who had no choice but to face Socrates.
“I have come to ask you a question.” Socrates’ face reflected a bright look of eagerness mixed with a stamp of innocence.
“Well go ahead, Socrates, but I only have a short time.” He pressed his lips together, a sign of pique.
“What is a wise man?”
“A wise man is one who knows how to use his words to win an argument.”
“By words, do you mean rhetoric?” The puzzled look on Socrates’ face increased.
“Can you give me an example?” Increasing bewilderment filled the face of Socrates.
“A wise man, for example, is skilled in the art of winning a court case.”
“Then rhetoric is the use of words to persuade?”
“Yes.” Pique had changed to irritation.
“Help me out here. I am so ignorant. Rhetoric is speech that creates justice?” Socrates spoke in a soft, reasonable voice.
“Yes,” he said snorting.
“By winning court cases?”
“Who teaches rhetoric?”
“So if rhetoric is used justly, sophists are just?”
“Certainly. Because we teach the use of words.”
“Words which to do what? What does rhetoric focus on?”
“To create the greatest and noblest of human affairs. To bring out the best in human beings."
“Please help me. I do not understand.” Socrates looked even more puzzled and his face reflected a certain naivety. “Suppose an unjust man were brought before the assembly. Again, suppose a rhetorician, a student of a sophist, were paid to convince the assembly of the man’s innocence. Would this be a just use of rhetoric?”
“The trainer is not to be accused if a wrestling student makes the wrong use of his wrestling art. If a rhetorician makes a bad or unjust use of rhetoric, that is not to be blamed on the teacher but on the wrongdoer himself.”
“So those you make a rhetorician must know either the nature if the just and unjust or be taught by you?”
“Is not one whom has learned carpentry a carpenter?”
“Likewise a musician?”
“And a physician?”
“Just so. Where is this going, Socrates? ”
“I am not sure. I will continue my questions and perhaps we will find out. Now in the same way, is one who has learned what is just, just?”
“Therefore, this just man must always do what is just?”
“Apparently so.” Lycon’s voice sounded like two sheets of sandpaper rubbed together.
“So the just man will never do injustice?”
“Of course not,” he sighed.
“Then you agree that the above-mentioned rhetorician will never do an injustice.”
“You seem to have fallen into an inconsistency. You just agreed that a rhetorician could not do an unjust thing. Yet you added that a rhetorician might use rhetoric badly. Help me out here Lycon.”
“I said at the beginning I only had a short time and I fear I must go to another appointment.” His voice sounded like a parakeet being vacuumed out of its cage.
As Lycon left to the snickers of the crowd, he swore to himself that by the gods, Zeus and Apollo, he would seek vengeance on Socrates.
Socrates watched Lycon leave the marketplace and sadly shook his head. I guess even the sophist are not wiser than me. In a dawning awareness, he realized what the Pythian meant. Socrates was the wisest of all men because he was the only one who realized that he was not wise.
* * *
Three months later
The usually, noisy morning crowd was quiet yet filled with anticipatory adrenaline. They surged toward the agora. It was the day long anticipated by the enemies of Socrates, the day of Socrates’ trial. In Athens, any citizen could bring charges against any other citizen. A lottery selected a jury of 500 free males. There were two phases of the trial, the jury’s decision of innocence or guilt, and the penalty phase. Penalties could range from fines to execution.
The charges brought against Socrates were corrupting the youth of the city and impiety (a disbelief in the gods recognized by Athenians.) Socrates faced three accusers, Anytus, Meletus, and Lycon.
The crowd quieted as the jailer brought in Socrates. He stood and faced the jury. To the side, his three accusers sat with stony faces. He turned briefly toward them and turned back to the jury.
“Men of Athens,” he began. “I am not at all sure how much you have been influenced by the words of my three accusers. They were so persuasive that I almost forgot myself. Yet I must say that they don’t speak the truth. The largest lie they said was when they warned you not to be fooled by me. That I speak so persuasively. Yet it will soon be clear when the truth comes out that they are the ones telling falsehoods. Those who follow the poets will always hate one who tells the truth.
Socrates went on to explain that this trouble began when a prophecy by the Oracle said he was the wisest of all men. This prophecy he questioned. To find out if the Oracle was wrong, he went to the wisest persons he could think of, the politicians, the poets and the sophists. He concluded that the Oracle was right when he realized the he was the wisest person in the world because he knew that he knew nothing.
Although the youth admired him, his questioning angered and embarrassed many elders of the city. It revealed the false wisdom of many important people. The youth—as youth everywhere do—used his methods of questioning to embarrass their parents and elders. This was the reason he was on trial. He went on to say that he was not a sophist; that is, he never accepted money for teaching and he doesn’t discuss the physical sciences.
He restated his belief in the gods of the city and that he will never stop questioning and seeking the truth.
Socrates then cross-examined Meletus. He caught Meletus in several contradictions and succeeded in embarrassing him. He went on to say that he, Socrates, is like a gadfly stinging a lazy horse, a metaphor for Athens. Socrates said the state needed people like him; otherwise, the state would drift off into a lazy sleep.
The jury convicted Socrates and, as was the custom, they allowed Socrates to suggest a penalty. In a light vein, he humorously suggested that the city should honor him with free meals and financial support for life because he was of such a great service to the city. In a more serious vein, he rejected prison and exile and offered to pay a fine.
The jury sentenced him to death. Socrates stoically accepted the verdict and in his final statement said, “Now it is time to go away, I to die and you to live. Which of us goes to a better thing is unclear except to the gods.”
“At least Socrates got one thing right; he figured out what the Oracle meant. One of the few who did. Gotta give him that.” Wesley shifted in his chair.
“How do you feel about Socrates?”
“The problem I have with Socrates is not that he taught people to think; God knows we need more of that, but that we really don’t know what he was all about. I mean, the only knowledge we have about him is what Plato, his student, tells us. We don’t have any writings by Socrates directly. There is some evidence that Plato embellished Socrates to make him look good.
“If Plato is to be trusted,” Wesley continued, Socrates actually had some pretty modern ideas.”
“You seem to feel differently about Socrates than Plato. Why is that?’
“I guess I feel that Socrates was a pretty effective agitator. I think that is really cool.” Wesley leaned forward. “For example, he hated the poets, the sophists and the politicians. The only people he liked were the philosophers.”
“So you like agitating people?”
“Well, what I mean is…for example, take the poets. Poets were the ones standing around telling stories about the ancient heroes and gods. If they were around today, we would call them the media and mass entertainment. Socrates thought they were liars, misleading everyone to serve societies’ purposes. Distraction, reducing questioning, and so.”
The Therapist made a few notes. It seems that Wesley was avoiding discussing his true feelings. He kept bringing up ideas not how he feels about something.
“Again, let me continue,” Wesley said, “their politicians aren’t much different than ours today. Socrates had every right to despise them. Just as we do today. Not much difference.
“Now the sophists, I think, were a different story. I not sure I agree with Socrates’ assessment of them.
“Why is that?” the therapist asked. She decided to let Wesley talk a little more before confronting him about his feelings.
“Well it seems to me that today’s sophists are humanists, sociologists, and psychologists, like yourself. I think they really wanted to help people.” Wesley was on a roll. He continued. “For example, when sophists talked about developing virtue, they used the Greek word aretê.
“The word, aretê, really means not virtue, but excellence, which is a better translation. Aretê really means a sense of duty, being all one can be. Aretê, according to a scholar, named Kitto, implies a respect for the wholeness or oneness of life and a consequent dislike of specialization. Kitto gives as an example, Odysseus, of whom he said, ‘Thus the hero of the Odyssey is a great fighter, a wily schemer, a ready speaker, a man of stout heart and broad wisdom … he can both build a boat, drive a furrow as straight as anyone, beat a young braggart at throwing the discus, challenge the Pheacian youth at boxing, wrestling or running; flay, skin, cut up and cook an ox, and be moved to tears by a song. He is in fact an excellent all-rounder. He has surpassing aretê’”
“So you’re willing to cut the sophists a break?”
“I suppose so.”
“I don’t know; they seemed so much more open-minded and tolerant than Socrates.”
“What is it about Socrates that annoys you so much?” The patient suddenly sprang up in his chair.
“He was a doddering old man annoying people with questions designed to set them up. When Socrates entered the marketplace, the crowds parted from him like the Red Sea parting for the Israelites. When Socrates walked down the street, innocent Athenian citizens saw him and thought to themselves, ‘Oh my God! It’s Socrates!’ they would run either in the opposite direction or across the street. Socrates could clear out Times Square on New Year’s Eve.”
Wesley sat up straight and his eyes flashed. He turned red and became feisty as hell. Crazily furious, he spoke bitingly. “I don’t know why the crowds avoided him! Maybe it’s his unwashed toga. Maybe it’s his damned annoying, exasperating questions. Do you know that he once said he married his wife, Xantippe, supposedly n a shrew, to help him develop the virtue of patience. No one has ever said why Xantippe married Socrates. Perhaps she thought she could get out of doing the laundry!”
Now we’re getting somewhere, the Therapist thought. “Why do you care what he looked like? Or about his irritating questions?”
“I don’t know! Maybe it’s that he was so damned judgmental! He couldn’t just let people be; he kept trying to change them.”
“How do you know that? You said a few minutes ago that we only know Socrates through his student, Plato. Maybe you’re seeing him through Plato’s eyes.”
“Plato, That man’s a piece of work! He humiliated me because people thing I reflect his views!”’
“Well our time is almost up. We will talk about Plato next week.”
As Western Thought left the office, the Therapist wrote down a few observations. It seemed to her that Wes had an intolerance of intolerance. She would have to explore this further.