Learning from Socrates

Examining my life to see if it’s been worth living, one thing I thought of checking were the podcasts that I’ve been listening to. It seems the crime and associated genre podcasts were simply rehashing old newspaper reports of unresolved crimes of murders, rapes, child abductions, gang warfare, drug addiction and other podcasts made from trolling through prosecutions and publicly available police files, the more sensational the better. Characters brought to light from the notes, conversations fictionalised from investigator interviews. Suspect or witnesses are given flesh clothing from demeanour observations, locations dramatized from observations of crime scene minutiae by Mr Plod.
I’ve been seeing through this for a while but wondered what the fascination is. With this questioning in mind a recent listening was “Japanese Crime,” Essentially the pod sounds like a Japanese native speaking American guy and gal, the guy reading from a translation of Japanese newspapers of the times jumbled together with speculation from fiction writers of the day. In a case about a suspected murder of a glamorous promiscuous BOAC trainee airhostess in strange circumstances, the gal chimed in with,
“Wow,” I don’t believe it!” and “but I’m Catholic too,” said with the emphasis on the final “ic”, and something in the podcast which was finally being bent into shape pronounced as, “bendeded.” Cute? Corny? Crap?
So why, with a case so old in Japan make a podcast in 2016 at all? Well, turns out a follow-up by the podcaster’s researchers fifty odd years later than this 1960’s murder with an exonerated suspect, a priest now domiciled in Canada, was, was in fact …………. fruitless. My thoughts were, “how trite is this reporting, and worse why am I interested?”
But I digress. In reviewing the Socratic dictum, I realised that I’d failed the examination.
Socrates pre hemlock smoothie choice was to be exiled or remain silent. His method of examining and questioning was found by the good citizens of Athens to be corrupting their youth. To shush Socrates, he was offered this choice. He could remain in Athens sworn to silence, thereby not disseminating his questioning ways, or accept banishment away from Athens, his home.
Socrates saw this binary choice as unacceptable. By today’s standard I’d say very Western. Choices always presented as a dichotomy, say twixt Black and White, Republican or Democrat, perhaps Rowe or Wade. Socrates though saw a third way and sculled the hemlock. Hhmm, um I thought, he wasn’t a hemlock drinker because he hadn’t examined his life, rather he was reacting against the forever restraint of demonstrating his Socratic method of discourse to others. He wasn’t offered the choice of hemlocking himself. For him, the binary option just didn’t exist.
The scales tumbled from my eyes. The lesson is about whether we should be prepared to create a third way, rather than make choices only between binary alternatives presented. This is especially true when neither alternative is truly acceptable. I realised this has been a guiding notion in my life.
Having completed the mental gymnastics, I thought I’d examine my pod cast library for dog walking listening. I unfollowed crime, mystery or unsolved genre, refilling with science and stuff that I have a genuine interest in; more to do with today’s world or the developments of yesteryear, which have created today’s world.


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