Light is scarce – mornings are bright, but mid-afternoon is the limit of the only afternoon. The land turns dark and the seasons are celebrated indoors. The browns of tea and soup broth, the reds and oranges of my books continue Autumn indoors.
Parents have been obsessed with the terror in Bombay. I’ve been struggling to concentrate while I hear Dad “talk” to Mom, positing various theories about who was involved and how at a volume which could easily rival that of a Twilight fan.
I park myself at the dining table late in the evenings – my books are there right now, it is 23:45 atm. The computer room where I usually read is tucked away at the farthest end of the house: the TV and radio are always on – except now – tuned to news. The present echoes without mercy if you don’t occupy yourself here; it is fitting that none of the books I’m working with engage texts younger than 300 B.C. The present has been very merciless the last few days – cranked at high volume, the TV has been displaying the fighting at the hotels, complete with the gunfire, the explosions, the gore which makes me sick to watch.
The two books I’m reading for writing a better dissertation are centered around war. In Plato’s Laws, the main interlocutor – Klineas – believes the natural human condition is not only a war of all against all, but even stems from a self that is at war with itself. He believes this because of his background: the laws, mores, rituals he was raised with, i.e. dining in common, exercising to train for battle, not having any drinking parties, all scream that preparation for war is the most important thing, and should dominate even a time of peace. In the Iliad, of course, the age of heroes means there is a strange kinship between the Greek heroes who win at Troy and Troy (Ilion) itself. Like Troy, all the heroes perish, save Odysseus, who never quite bought into being an aner (a “manly man”) as opposed to an anthropos (human being) at any cost.
All of this is to get a grip on what Socrates is doing in the Memorabilia. There could be no Autumn indoors, it seems, when Athens was clearly going to lose to Sparta. That time, of course, is the setting of much of the Memorabilia. Yet Socrates didn’t change or overindulge his routine – he visits a painter, a sculptor, an arms maker; tells a brother how he should get along with his sibling; talks to a general about military matters with no sense of urgency, but almost one of curiosity.
The section I’ve been stuck on is about the gods. There’s a theology and a cosmology in an argument from design that’s the simplest thing you’ve ever heard. Socrates asks if the existence of light and night do not prove we’re cared for by something intelligent, and one has to wonder at why the argument is so simple yet so complicated. Its simple surface is for the interlocutor, who isn’t the brightest Socratic pupil, not by far. But the more complicated teaching makes me feel like I’m estranged entirely from another line of thought; nothing feels intuitive about it as I read and reread. Light is scarce, after all.