Where is Socrates When We Need Him?
I’m sitting with my son, Stuart, in a trendy cafe in the City of Amenities, Los Angeles. As much as I love a perfectly made Chocolate Truffle with Sea Salt cookie, there is a sadness to see people walking down the street on a sunny day with head hung down over the little screen in their hand. At the same time this city is coming alive with innovative young people and their pristine little juiceries, natural clothing and art shops. These places are not burdened with the uber-consumption that this city exemplifies. Little by little, a sweetness is coming to the streets that is about passion and quality of their inventiveness. But beyond these elevated physical offerings, there is a common pulse of living for the moment because there isn’t much of a future ahead.
Stuart received his degree in Philosophy, which many would say is a suicide mission for one’s future. But, in truth, his kind of thinking and wisdom is precisely what is needed to guide his generation out from under the malaise of their pessimism. In college he started the Socrates Club on his local campus in an attempt to gather together people who were capable of broad and critical thinking. They spoke of the issues they were concerned with – the cause of loneliness, the relevance of college and living one’s passion. I attended a couple of meetings and was surprised by the degree of intelligent engagement, which is not distributed throughout the rest of their demographic. They cared. They wanted to understand life and its complexity and challenges.
Indigenous societies, meanwhile, have their philosophers in the form of Wise Women, Shaman, Paqo Andino, Wisdom Keepers. But, we in the west have no one, which is why we look to the indigenous peoples, though their particular brand of wisdom may or may not have an application in our own world. I believe it’s time for the true Philosophers of all ages to find venues from which to speak. At a time when we have the implosion of Europe from the duress of the immigration of ravaged souls, the Biggest Show on Earth brand of politics of the U.S. and young couples all over the world deciding that the state of affairs is so desperate that don’t want to procreate, we need the Great Thinkers to emerge. We need clear thinking strategies – economically, educationally, societally, socially and spiritually. We really cannot afford to continue on the path of Distraction. Its time to honor our Philosophers, give them voice and a roof over their heads. But we aren’t oriented to look up, we’re looking down.
Socrates, a self taught man, was charged with corrupting the minds of the youth, found guilty and drank the hemlock. Hated by the authorities, beloved by the people, his legacy – “An unexamined life is not worth living” – is the very thing needed now, two millennium later. Clear thinkers are not honored by society now any more than they were then, which is crime against humanity. What can we do about that?