Thursday, October 17, 2013

Brief Resume of Broad

Let us briefly look at the career of a Man born of wealthy and powerful parents. He was born just four years before what might be called the Great War of his time began. That war lasted some 27 years, and our Man was just 23 years of age when it finally ended. His country had lost the war—and the victorious enemy established an Oligarchy to rule the country; some members of this Oligarchy were relatives of the Man. They invited him to join their activities and thus make his career, but our Man had literary, artistic leanings and preferred to write poetry and plays. The Oligarchy didn’t last very long—just a year. In that time, however, it managed to arrest and to try one of the country’s most famous intellectuals and teachers—for that man’s failure to participate in the abduction and killing of one of their opponents. The Intellectual barely escaped execution; luckily for him the Oligarchy was overthrown just before it could do him in. Some five years later, however, the Intellectual was tried again, this time for corrupting the youth of his country, and put to death. Those were turbulent times.

Our Man, 28 at that time, had been a great admirer of the Intellectual. The teacher’s death disgusted him—and he left the country to go on travels. He spent time all over the place, associating with other intellectuals. His travels took him to neighboring countries as well as to distant, but long-established colonies of his region. He spent nearly twenty years in such travels and studies. Then, having come to a decision, he returned to his country at age 51 and there founded a school and legislative consultancy to propagate the teachings of the much admired late Intellectual.

An interesting event, just before the founding of the School, but poorly documented in the life of our Man, was that, just before founding his School, he had been engaged as a consultant to a tyrannical ruler of one of his region’s one-time colonies; let’s call that place Sy. His attempts at persuading the Tyrant to rule by laws, rather than force, got him sold into slavery—but an admirer of his purchased his freedom and got him back to the capital of his country again.

Despite having founded his School, our Man twice more visited Sy later—after the Tyrant had been deposed—but his efforts to institute wise rule failed every time. Eventually, back at the School again, he devoted himself to philosophical writings and died peacefully at age 80 in his bed.

So who exactly was this man? His nickname, in the language of his own country, was Broad or Wide—either because his forehead was prominent or because a wrestling coach of his admired the width of his shoulders. Let me give that word in his own language, it was Plato. His actual name, given to him by his parents, was Aristocles. No, not a mistyping. Aristotle was someone else; in fact he was Plato’s most famous pupil…

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The motivation for this post? It is my conviction that we tend to abbreviate, caricature, emblemize, and iconize the past. The past was just as complicated, confusing, and nitty-gritty-filled as any present ever is.

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