It is relatively common knowledge that Socrates liked to ask questions, to ponder, to unsettle more than arrive at conclusions our resolutions. (Ironically, the Socratic seminar, as it is sometimes practiced in educational settings, bares no resemblance to the person for whom it is named.)
I’ve been thinking about Socrates a lot recently, and taking refuge in a way within the quote attributed him: “I know that I know nothing.” To my ears, there is tremendous freedom and power in these words. How wonderful to remember to enact humility as human beings at the realization that even when we arrive at a conclusion, questions lurk in plain sight.
Or, put more artfully by Emerson: “Every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.”
It’s that last bit that I especially love and that is simultaneously the source of much angst — wherein it is still a shock to my system to encounter people for whom these words hold no meaning… those for whom bottom line refers to a dollar amount and excel spreadsheet and not the last line of a poetic stanza.
Who bends & sways, only to be interpreted as inchoate, and thus left alone to wither?
Whose rigidity, read as conviction, is rewarded?
Is it disappointment that has settled in me (perhaps the sentient experience hardest to make sense of)? It is for this reason I have long resisted identifying heroes, yet am not immune apparently to expectations; tis a burden (even as it is a gift) to be human.
So the best we can do in response to disappointment is to take a learning posture.
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” — Lao Tzu