Jun 18, 2011

Will I Shine Among the Shades in Hades Like Tiresias?

Henry Fuseli, Tiresias appears to Ulysses during the sacrificing (1780-1785) 

Yesterday I was at the Met for my bimonthly one hour visit. I go to the museum immediately after psychoanalysis. I'm sure there is a connection to that somehow. Reliving painful experience followed by the need to be absorbed by beauty seems like a rational explanation. Also: proximity. Dr. X's office is on the Upper East Side so it is not too far of a walk to attend a visit to one of the world's most voluminous holders of art. I checked in my bags. Bag attendant: "Do you have any electronic devices?" I answer a laconic "no." "Do you mind if we inspect your bag sir?" I am secretly relieved my latest issue of Wet and Wild is absent. Just kidding. This is a kid-friendly blog. So I will say, "just kidding." Although I am sure there are a few number of kids who do read this blog. And if they do and they are scandalized then I am sure I can rightly join the ranks of Socrates's who was charged with "corruption of the youth." In fact I just had a conversation about Socrates's trial in class last Thursday. Most students agree that Socrates is a cool cat. But, I wonder if they would have liked him if they had actually met him. I too think Socrates is a cool cat but I have a suspicion that I would not like him very much. I think it is the passage in the Meno that compares him to a sting ray. Meno tells him that his frequent and accumulating questions without answers numb him like a sting ray's sting (or a jellyfish?). Why be so numbing Socrates? It goes against educational practice today. We are not supposed to overload our students with too many questions. Socrates asks Meno one question after another. Without answer. And more complicated. Can virtue be taught? He does not like Meno's answer so he asks him more questions. How can we get at the heart of virtue? Do we even know what virtue is in its essence? I don't think Socrates is satisfied that strength tells us anything about courage as a whole or that healthy bones tell us anything about health. Socrates wants to get at the heart of the matter. We don't know anything about the essence of a virtue. In fact we know nothing for certain about wholes in of themselves. We know via recollection. We remember knowledge. Since we existed before this life (our souls are immortal) we come into corporeal existences with the memory of our past existence buried deep within us. Knowledge is memory recall. The puzzle is the access to our soul's knowledge is not an open flood way. It is more like a dam with tiny holes allowing a minuscule of seepage to pass through. Damn transmigration of souls. How can I know anything if I do not even know that I must remember to know? That is the sting ray part. At least for me. How do I access the treasure trove of knowledge from above? Do I look at beautiful things to stimulate my mind to recollect? Socrates suggests it is all by mere chance. So remember and some don't. The son of a wise man is not necessarily wise. The key is the tether. When you got it hold it down. Don't let a morsel of knowledge get away and be able to distinguish the dross from the good stuff. I like how the Meno ends. Odysseus was able to identify Tiresias among the shades in Hell because Tiresias shone with a special light. He was a flitter of glory among shadows. In other words who knows when we will "get it"; maybe never, but the thing is, when we do in fact see it, we will know it.


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