Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Platonic Body Slam

Have you ever gotten yourself into a philosophical rut? I get into those quite often. This is not the kind of rut where you simply do the same thing over and over again and cannot seem to get out of it. This is the kind of rut where the there are two equal and opposite sides that you keep bouncing around in and cannot seem to get out. Back on the farm after a good hard rain you would drive out into the fields and unknowingly create ruts in the soft dirt. The dirt bakes in the sun and suddenly you find you have no other options but bouncing around in the sun baked ruts even though you try to break out you end up back in the same place. An existential rut is the same thing.

In early Greek, pre-Socratic times there was a guy named Heraclitus (500 BC ish) who taught that “whatever is, is becoming.” His nemesis was another Greek philosopher called Parmenides who taught that “whatever is, is.” These two greats of their day did battle arguing opposite philosophies. Parmenides yelled that things have always been and always will be the same, there is nothing new under the sun. While Heraclitus yelled back that EVERYTHING changes, every time you breathe or move you are changing and changing the world around you. They fought and came to no conclusion in the minds of the people that heard them so the people threw up their hands and dropped all this philosophy junk like so much verbal trash. They thought that if the two greatest minds of our age cannot agree then we don’t have a chance and they dropped into a philosophical malaise, or rut, and did whatever they wanted. It wasn’t until Socrates, and really Plato came along did this quandary get solved and people started listening to philosophers again. Throughout history when two equal and opposing ideas did battle for an extended period of time the “masses” tended toward malaise and inaction. A philosophical rut.

Today we have mental ruts too. In simple terms your parents tell you one thing is right and just and true and the world and friends tell you the opposite is so you dissolve into a philosophical rut. You don’t know which is true, which to believe, which to make happy so you just ignore the whole argument and do what you want. In more difficult terms the world and your own body tells you one thing but your parents, your church, your religion tells you that thing is wrong, evil or just not good for you. You get tired of the battle so you just pull back, stay away from parents, church, friends and just sit at the bottle of your rut hoping the problem will just go away.

What you need is a Platonic body slam. (That is a joke for all the philosophers out there who knew that Plato was his professional wrestlers name, his real name was Aristocles) We something to wake us up and getting thinking NEW THOUGHTS; or something that will challenge us with new ideas. Take a trip. Read a totally different book. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or mission. Take a college level class in something totally unrelated to your field. Find a different way home from work, longer but more scenic. Climb a mountain. Eat raw fish.

I stole this first from John Maxwell, who stole it from someone else: A Play in Four Acts.
Act 1: I walk down a street, I see a hole but I fall in it, I get out and go on my way.
Act 2: I walk down a street, I see the hole and attempt to get around it but I fall in, it is harder to get out but I finally manage and go on my way.
Act 3: I walk down a street; I see the hole and attempt to get around it, this time I almost make it but I fall in, this time I need help getting out and I go on my way.
Act 4: I walk down a different street.

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