Saturday, February 16, 2013

Golden Advice: Wisdom from Socrates

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series on the ancient paths to see what I can glean for us. Socrates was one bold-thinking dude, and I have been a major fan since I was in high school.  I can see him, sort of a lazy bum, moving from one group to another in ancient Athens. It's a place of beauty and he's an ugly guy. I believe he gets the irony. He dresses like a homeless person. He won't take money for his philosophical teaching, because he feels that the second you take a red cent for what you think then, blah, they own you and every thought you share.

Instead he's a blue collar guy, and makes his cash as a stone mason (I like to think this is true but it's not verified) when he needs to eat. He's the gadfly of Athenian society, a biting fly that can direct a horse. He doesn't go with popular opinion and always sticks with his own opinion. His whole attitude finally causes the leaders of the city to put him on trial. They ask him what should be his punishment and he has the cheek to say a pension and free food for the rest of his life. He's convicted of the terrible crimes of "corrupting the minds of the youth" and "causing those kids to question their current gods and their government." Huzzah! Of course, he's given hemlock to drink and put to death for his heresy.

So what, writerly stuff do I take from the original "marching-to-my-own-drum" guy?  Well, yeah, let's corrupt young minds!  And add this on, let's do our part to cause kids to question their current gods and their government. Add that into your writer's toolbox and I'm pretty sure the content of your writing is going to get interesting.  You may spend some time out in the cold in terms of publishing though because you don't jump on vampire-fantasy-dystopian-suspense-thriller bandwagons. You will see lots of notes that say, wish there was room for your original stuff in this tight market. When your books come out, finally, the storm stirred up by people who find you subversive won't be pretty. But don't let that stop you.

I'm going to wrap this up with a favorite Socrates idea. Don't just believe stuff. Turn over every stone. Don't live an unexamined life, not just for your writing but for yourself too.

Hope this little story lights a fire under you.  You go ahead and stand up for what you believe, even if its not politically-correct or popular.  Seize the day, creative folk.

This week's doodle is called: "Tangled Hearts."

This quote is Plato's account (old Soc knew how to pick friends) of how Socrates felt about being put to death because he was willing to think his own thoughts. I hope we will all be swans.

From Plato's Phaedo: Socrates said and smiled. . .
I am not very likely to persuade other men that I do not regard my present situation as a misfortune, if I am unable to persuade you, and you will keep fancying that I am at all more troubled now than at any other time. Will you not allow that I have as much of the spirit of prophecy in me as the swans?

For they, when they perceive that they must die, having sung all their life long, do then sing more than ever, rejoicing in the thought that they are about to go away to the god whose ministers they are.

But men, because they are themselves afraid of death, slanderously affirm of the swans that they sing a lament at the last, not considering that no bird sings when cold, or hungry, or in pain, not even the nightingale, nor the swallow, nor yet the hoopoe; which are said indeed to tune a lay of sorrow, although I do not believe this to be true of them any more than of the swans.


Mirka Breen said...

In other words- let's have a backbone.

A backbone to withstand the PC police. A backbone to rebuff the professionals in publishing who respond with "parents wouldn't like XYZ." A backbone to hold on to core-values when the mega-tides of commerce want to sweep our work under.

And maybe, unlike Old Soc, leave the hemlock out of it, thank you.

MollyMom103 said...

I think backbone is good. Good word. Mirka.

On hemlock: Back in the day there was real hemlock, I think today its more metaphorical hemlock -- like authors uninvited from events because their books have questionable content and then you read the book and wonder what the hoopla is about. Or governments ban books because, hello, thinking isn't welcome. Stuff like that.

Candilynn Fite said...

That's what I like to call brave writing. Stories that rock kids' worlds, make them think, question, and explore. Unfortunately some writers, myself included tend to stay within safe zones, and write stuff parents, teachers, librarians and other literary adults will approve of. There are exceptions out there, writing bravely, and I say, "Whoo, hoo!" to them. Maybe it's time to remove my safety-nerd writing hat and put on something wild and crazy when I pen my stories. I bet the kiddos would love them. :) I love coming to your blog, Molly. I always walk away with lots to munch on!!

MollyMom103 said...

Well, those are the buyers: parents, teachers, librarians and literary adults. It's just the books I love, I really, really love are certainly not written with gate keepers in mind.

I'm happy to be on this journey with you. Every great journey needs excellent company.

Faith Pray said...

I want to be myself and question as bravely as that guy. But I'm thankful we have that whole "life, liberty" and the ability to think for ourselves thing going for us in the old U.S. Thank you for the inspiration, Molly.

Faith Pray said...

I meant to say: I'm thankful we get to think for ourselves in this country and not get poisoned by hemlock, but as you can see I'm not thinking for myself very clearly. Bedtime!

Kjersten said...

Wisdom to LIVE by! Thank goodness we can speak our minds (even when it's hard to do so).

I like the part of your post about "wish there was room for your original stuff in this tight market." Gave me a chuckle. But also rings true.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi, Faith! Yay, for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness!

I hope you get some sleep. I find the number one problem I generally face is a lack of sleep.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi Kjersten, I agree saying the truth is tough. It's hard to be fearless! I mean really hard.

I love the connection of a chuckle and truth.