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Gene Williamson

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Lunch with Socrates
By Gene Williamson
Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Rated "G" by the Author.

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You can meet some fascinating people on
a trolley or in a cozy corner of your mind.


When dark rumbles threaten rain and I seek refuge in the open air trolley, bell clanging, the strain of wheels click clacking side to side in a fanciful black and white world of suspended reverie, and I chance upon a seat next to an ancient man intent on a scroll curled in the decorative mark of Plato’s classic Greek, does it really have to ring true when the man introduces himself as Socrates and proceeds to speak as a pettifogger trying to make sense of Plato’s dialogue with the comic poet Aristophanes, whose carefree comedy The Clouds ridiculed Socrates who, while observing the course of the moon, was crapped upon by a lizard?
Is it not plausible that someone asleep might pursue perceptions dissimilar to those of someone awake and that those perceptions may not be true or false but different?
As stormy snapshots flash in the windows of my mind, is it absurd that I should ask how long he’s been in town and that Socrates should find the philosophic need to ask, how long is long?

Or when I suggest we do lunch and he wonders with a pause if it is suitable since we are
but strangers on a strange rig in a strange parody, is it not likely that I might say, yes, of course, because lunch is an affable way to get acquainted and allow me the opportunity to help him make right the flaws in the manuscript, I a chosen member of some import of a college Greek fraternity and a closet student of Plato himself, or that when I inquire again about lunch the retort is yet another question from the sage whose irresolution I am now determined to assuage?

Would it not be a good time to mention a rustic seafood inn on the waterfront side of reason where the specialty is Chincoteague oysters on the half shell with steamed crabs and white corn and Corona Beer with a lime in it?

Might not it appear unmannerly should Socrates grimace and turn a sour shade of green
around his scowl and ask where he could obtain a cup of hemlock, and that I would whisper, Why hemlock, and he might howl how does one know what one does not know?

Would it not be likely that I would duck the query and attempt to help him edit the scroll
by tactfully subtracting a few commas and hyphens and a few abstractions to enhance the flow and that this would so endear me to Socrates that he would rest his gray head on my shoulder, which I would find disconcerting until he attests it is an old Athenian gesture of bonding?

And might I not smile at the crowd across the aisle and return my attention to the lunch date, proffering a nice Greek spot in the cloudy corner of my right cerebral hemisphere where the Dolmathakia Me Rizi and Bakalraros Tighanitos are delightfully authentic, served with an exquisite Metaxa Private Reserve?

Is it improbable that the venerable one salivate and ask to be told precisely how much longer we have to travel to reach the Greek taverna and that I should indicate the next stop and that he should ask if reservations were required and I might say, No, but I think we will have to check your toga at the door?

Would it surprise you to hear Socrates ask who will spring for the meal, concerned that he
is down to his last two drachmas, and if such be the case, would I not sing with a flourish that lunch is my treat, and that he might reply, Oh, my sweet new friend, can we not write it off as a business expense and dispense the bill to Plato, and might I not nod and remove his head from my shoulder?

Over lunch would it not be understandable that Socrates pose many profound questions
about virtue, justice, friendship, values, wisdom, love, and death, and wonder if the gods would not agree that a thing can be and also not be, and that I might shrug, and he might illustrate the point with a half brother who becomes his brother because both share the same mother, noting also that the brother is not a brother because the father of the half brother is not the father of Socrates?

And would I not suggest as did Protagoras that the measure of all things is man, and that a chill wind to one man or woman might be warm to another, that the wind is neither chill nor warm but merely wind, and that if things are not as they appear, is not knowledge then opinion?

And might not bold Socrates scold and remind me that opinion is the midpoint between knowledge and ignorance, and then plop his soft hand above my knee, look deep into my soul, and ask how I knew he adored dried cod and grape leaves when topped with a rare and costly spirit?

Is it not logical too that I would discern later that Plato would not reimburse the lunch expense and would reject my edits to his Aristophanes dialogue or that I might learn that Socrates was wrongly incarcerated as a tempter of Athenian youth and that surrounded by friends in his cell he would sip his hemlock, make amends to the gods, and pose a riddle I’m still working on?



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Reviewed by John Flanagan 8/7/2008
Sage has written it all so I'll just comment on the whole idea and say what a glorious fantasy it is, erudite yet accessible and grounded in a special reality that is uniquely yours. It may not be for everyone but I'm not complaining when I'm treated this well.
Reviewed by Sage Sweetwater 8/6/2008
Socratic irony, Lunch with Socrates is a pedagogy, in which questions are pondered to draw insight. Plato not reimbursing the lunch tab is well on the mark, Socrates, renowned for his contribution to the field of ethics, of course, Plato would learn from Socrates he dine free on logic - The Clouds portrays Socrates as a clown who teaches his students how to bamboozle their way out of debt - viewpoints have little to do with salad fork points, but just as important, scholarly tines feed us well if we are so as intellectuals to know which fork to use for which "wisdom food."

Several of Plato's dialogues refer to Socrates' military service. Socrates compares his military service to his courtroom troubles, and says anyone on the jury who thinks he ought to retreat from philosophy must also think soldiers should retreat when it looks like they will be killed in battle.

Gene, you're a word mason, this story is a chip off the old block himself, a bust of Socrates. Socrates took over the profession of stonemasonry from his father. There was a tradition in antiquity, not credited by modern scholarship, that Socrates crafted the statues of the Three Graces, which stood near the Acropolis until the second century AD. And so, for those who would be narrow-minded, to request he take off his toga when entering the tavern, would need to become Socrates' student for at least many centuries, and that discrepancies and unrealistic portrayals do come out over lunch, In The Clouds Aristophanes portrays Socrates as accepting payment for teaching and running a sophist school with Chaerephon, while in Plato's Apology and Symposium and in Xenophon's accounts, Socrates explicitly denies accepting payment for teaching. More specifically, in the Apology Socrates cites his poverty as proof he is not a teacher, as none of us are teachers, only wisdom producers to those of unselfish, non-bigoted, non-myopic personalites who wish to learn, living in time of transition, (as we are) like Athens sought to stabilize and recover from its humiliating defeat, the Athenian public may have been entertaining doubts about democracy as an efficient form of government. Socrates appears to have been a critic of democracy, and some scholars interpret his trial as an expression of political infighting. [Sage Sweetwater]
Reviewed by Rose Rideout 8/6/2008
I just find they all say a whole lot of nothing, I tell you Gene this story has a smile on my face. Thank you for sharing.

Newfie Hugs, Rose
Reviewed by Lloyd Lofthouse 8/6/2008
Ah, a story that delves into the meaning of life in such a way that I found myself laughing several times as Socrates kept sidestepping the questions in such a way that I pondered if future politicians would study him to discover ways to avoid answering questions without confusing the issue even more while sounding intelligent and saying next to nothing with a few words. The head on the shoulder and the hand on the knee were a nice touch. It seems Socrates may have been taken by the narrator, but taken where might be the question if we donít really exist because we only belong in someoneís imagination. LOL

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