Friday, November 9, 2012
Groats, Thalers, Gulden and Rupees.
"The unexamined life is not worth living." These words were written by Plato over two thousand years ago, and so as not to be blamed for them, Plato accredited them to Socrates, who as everyone knows was something of a radical and inclined toward extreme and often hard head opinions. If we try hard to leave aside the Ancient Greek institution of slavery and the servitude expected from the Ancient Greek female, Plato's point was, an "examined life" put an onus on the self to grasp and share purpose, as opposed to the "unexamined life" which put that onus elsewhere. So, when Persian armies came to Greek shores, Greek soldiers had a different understanding of the fight ahead than did Persian soldiers. Persian soldiers for the most part were far from their own homes, and they were under an obligation to follow the decisions of their King or risk execution, or unemployment, or loss of healthcare, or whatever it was that Kings promised back in those days. Generally, despite being greatly outnumbered, Ancient Greek soldiers out performed Ancient Persian soldiers, and ever since those simpler days, the implications of an "examined life," of individual responsibility and associated hoopla, have been considered inspirational to what's loosely referred to as the "model of Judeo-Christian western success." Then a question began to haunt our more learned cathedrals. In some places it still does. The question was this, when it came down to an "examined life," from where does our information come so that our dialogue with meaning might better reflect possibilities in a world that included physics and manufacture, and foreigners and color television and global warming and other such alarming movements in idea that occur once being ventures beyond rustic charm.
The Protestant revolt of the sixteenth century was an early example in the "western model" of adverse reaction to information originating from sources which placed a financial interest in maintaining a particular understanding. Martin Luther, whose birthday is tomorrow, did not see a future for his flock in a heaven and earth where the hereafter could be purchased with Groats or Thalers, or Schillings. Some argue that Luther reckoned buying forgiveness through the sale of indulgences was contrary to a central theme in the Christian Message. Others have argued that he saw political opportunity in knocking down a practice that primarily advantaged the wealthy and found the 'eye of a needle' biblical passage advantageous to the sensibilities of those earning less than a preset number of Gulden or Rupees a year. Either way, for Luther and even for the Ancient Persian foot soldier, financial gain has traditionally imposed a large question mark on any source of information deemed 'factual,' or 'true,' or one of those words that survives within the category of 'honest appraisal.' Much more recently, what has been described as the "political entertainment complex," has been suddenly accused of "fleecing" and "exploiting" those of us who prefer to observe Ancient Persian traditions of subcontracting the burden of an "examined life" to others. And well worth remembering that as much as three or four days ago the "political entertainment complex" was esteemed as a "job creator" in the "new economy," and as such set a wonderful example for those whose dreams include vacations in Cancun, and things like u-pods and tricycles and electric trains. But fortunately I too am fully engaged in an entrepreneurial activity which will solve this dilemma for all of us. I have found that unless you occasionally cleave to the condition of Pompous Arse, the "examined life" can never be a remotely contented one. And for your interest, I reckon upon achieving contentment through this condition for a liberal five to six hours a week, anything longer is just unattractive, and most likely will lead to an awkwardness that makes you look very, very stupid. Unless of course you're Socrates, for whom suicide was preferable to being wrong. And here I'd prefer hemlock to the cross.