Socrates Repents (An Alternative “Apology”)

Standard

[I realize this looks like (and probably is) a harsh critique of the most revered figure in philosophy (Hat Tip to Taleb for stating it first). But I didn’t write it about him. I wrote it about me.]

Friends, Athenians, countrymen
Lend me your ears!
For I fear mine have not been working.

Apology

While awaiting my trial
And preparing my Apology
I was granted a vision of Apollo

He reminded me that his Oracle
Had already said
That none was wiser than Socrates

Why then, he asked me
Did I still torment the citizens of Athens
Hoping to find answers to my questions?

His words troubled my heart
It made me question my deepest beliefs
I felt my soul shriveling within me

For the God spoke truth
I had ignored his words
Or rather, sought to refute them

Worse, why did my daimonion not stop me?
This inner voice that long warded me
Always kept me from acts of evil

It forced me to ask the hard question
I had never asked myself
Or enabled others to ask of me

Why did I trust the daimonion
And not the deity?

Pride

The easy answer is pride
Certainly my enemies see it so
And I must acknowledge their bitter truth

Yet strangely it was an excess of humility
That drove me to challenge the God’s claim
That none were wiser than I

So why did I see humility
In the very same thing
That others recognized as pride?

Because I saw myself
As submitting to my daimonion
As a thing other than myself

The thing I took pride in
Was my self-awareness
Of how little I knew

You Athenians only saw
Me worshipping what was inside me
At the expense of the what you worship

It is right and just
For you to accuse me
Of pride and impiety

It is just and right
For me to die
For I have set myself above all of you

Yet while that is all true
And death would be fair and merciful
It is still too easy of an answer

For if I confess my sin as mere pride
Then I am the most foolish of men
Which once again, makes the God a liar

My true sin is far, far worse
Yet it is one my worst enemy
Would be loath to speak against me

Cowardice

For as I stared into the depths of my soul
And confronted with horror
My willful defiance of the God’s own truth

I had to ask myself: why?
Why could I not simply agree?
Why not simply accept I was the wisest man alive?

Why not revel in my high position?
Why not accept riches and status
For selling wisdom to eager buyers?

If I had, I would not be here today
Shackled and condemned
Making a widow and orphans of my family

You may have envied me
But you would never have condemned me
Because I would have been no threat

But I was cursed with a deep truth
That I truly had no wisdom to give
And to claim otherwise would unman me

But I can claim no credit
For my embrace of that truth
Since it led me to deny a deeper one

The word of the Oracle to me
That many would sing as praise
Was to me the knell of death

For I knew I had no goodness in me
And if none were wiser than I
Then surely we all were doomed

It is only to be expected
That a mortal such as I
Would flee that terrible abyss

Indeed, that is why
None of my accusers
Leap to condemn my cowardice

For they too share that same fear
Which is why they must silence
My questions that reveal their shame

In truth, I cannot blame them or myself
For refusing to face the emptiness
That ritual and tradition help us avoid

Yet I cannot help but wonder
Why my daimonion dared not speak
And challenge my craven fear?

I trusted that voice with all my heart
I would gladly have gone to my death
In order to honor its commands

I had always assumed
That this inner voice
Spoke only the truth

And perhaps it is still fair
To say it never lied
Except by omission

What if
That voice
Was also scared?

Trust

I still believe that voice
Cared for my soul
Even if it cost the death of my body

But now it seems
That even spirits
Have their limits

There seems to be a place
That man must go
Where spirits dare not tread

Perhaps my daimonion thought it kinder
For me to wander in darkness
Rather than be burnt by light

But it seems more likely
That my voice was bound
With an oath too terrible to contemplate

It would help me if it could
But is itself in need of rescuing
Which is why it could not save me

I can no longer trust this inner voice
Yet neither can I deny it

Commission

Citizens of Athens
Lend me your ears
And I will lend you mine

I owe you my life
It is yours to take
And mostly gladly would I surrender it

But I ask you instead
To lay a greater burden on me
And perhaps on yourselves

Send me to ask the God
The question I should have asked
Instead of trying to prove Him false

Perhaps only a God
Can speak the awful Word
Than binds the lips of spirits

Grant me the exile I once spurned
But with the added scourge of hope
That I may return if my quest succeeds

If you grant me this indulgence
I will seek the Oracle at Delphi
And lay this Question before her

I know not even now
What is the right Question
That I need to ask

Perhaps my daimonion
May contrive a way
To evade the curse that blocks its aid

Or perhaps I will waste away at Delphi
Longing for a Truth I know not to ask
Of which I and the world are not yet worthy

Either way, fair citizens
I will trouble you no longer
Yet you need not have
My blood on your hands

Conclusion

My heart rends within me
At how my deeds
Have sundered me from those I love

I know not how to ask forgiveness
When even my penance
Adds to the pain of those who love me

All I can do is lay down my life
In faith to the God
And submission to my community

Thank you.

The End
(Or possibly, The Beginning?)

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