This morning I read from Book VI in the Republic. (The mornings are for prayer, Plato, and possibly hangovers.) In speaking of the true philosopher, Socrates asks socratically, “Then how can he who has magnificence of mind and is the spectator of all time and all existence, think much of human life?” As I was reading, the sun suddenly broke through the clouds and beamed through my apartment loft window, and I looked around my kitchen filled with plants and said the Doxology. Then I went to have breakfast with my parents.
Interestingly enough, this morning I resolved to start praying for them every morning. They are lovely people who never let me lack for anything that I truly needed when I was growing. Still today, they insist on helping me whenever they can or whenever I will allow them. Yet, time spent with them, especially in public, can be exasperating. I found myself wondering how Socrates, for all his high-minded talk about the philosophic beatific vision, acted at home with reportedly shrewish, chamber-pot tossing Xanthippe and the three boys. (Side note: maybe history has been unkind to Xanthippe. Maybe she simply got tired of Socrates and Alcibiades palling around all the time together and Socrates’ coming home late with the excuse, “We were talking about the Good, honey. What’s for supper?”)
How does a philosopher who contemplates all time and existence keep his interest when listening to his parents talk about one of their favorite stores closing? Perhaps that is when he must be his most philosophic and detached.