The Wisest Of Them All
I’d like to think I know my shit.
When it comes to achieving an aesthetic physique, there can be no question.
When it comes to fashion, social dynamics, the mind, and more, I do not often meet my equal.
I’m a thinker.
I deconstruct, prod around, then rebuild bigger and better than before. That’s just what I do. Left and right. Up and down. Inside and out. And it’s what I’ve compulsively done since I was young.
However, despite the concentrated confidence coursing through my veins, there is always one quote that stays with me embedded into the very fabric of who I am.
“I am wise for I know that I know nothing.”
Death by Poison
This memorable phrase is attributed to the Greek philosopher, Socrates, based on his speech in Plato’s Apology.
In it, Socrates was placed on trial (and condemned to death, which he willingly accepted out of civic loyalty to Athens) for impiety & “corrupting the youth”.
Speaking in his defense before the court, he tells the tale of the Oracle at Delphi stating that there was no man wiser than Socrates.
In an attempt to disprove this, the humble Socrates sought out the most gifted and intelligent men in the land. He later came to the conclusion that they were indeed not wise because despite their praise by the people, each one thought themselves wise:
…he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.
I first read this many years ago, and it has had a profound impact on me as time has passed.
You see, Socrates was no imbecile.
His philosophies have had an immense impact in the world – both directly and through his disciple, Plato, who then went on to found the Academy and mentor Aristotle, who in turn founded the Lyceum and served as tutor to none other than Alexander the (soon to be) Great.
With this Socratic snippet serving as a source of inspiration, I’d like to highlight two key concepts of vast importance related to this concept of knowing nothing:
Science is the latest societal fetish.
Ever since the Enlightenment, the world has been gleaming towards a scientific civilization. Wherever you look, “science says” is just around the corner.
As a result, science and those who champion it are seen as the elite heroes of the modern era. Rational, refined, and ravishing!
This is, of course, ironically idiotic.
For starters, knowledge is topic specific. It is fallacious to conclude an expert in one concrete area is an expert in all. This is a common mistake that is further compounded by the fact that not all truth is built equally.
Is a great historian a great scientist? Is a great surgeon a great mechanic? We must understand the limitations of expertise unless demonstrated otherwise…
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Secondly, intelligence, PhDs, and !sexy! science has become an egotistical compulsion whereby often those in that tribe see themselves as gods above the less-educated man. They believe themselves to have prestige in all areas of inquiry by virtue of their academic accolades.
Obsession over certifications and degrees is often akin to the question of “how much ya bench?”
Useful, perhaps…for a powerlifter. But does it really matter if your goal is aesthetics?
You know what you know. And truth is truth. Whether coming from a leading expert or a hobo off the street.
Ignorance is Key
And lastly, believing oneself to possess all truth hardens your curiosity. It shuts off the door of possibility. Bad habits are made worse. And ignorance is a virtue – a point I will discuss in the second half of this post.
No matter how far we come, we must remain humble and open to differing thoughts of opinion and new evidence.
If truth is our pursuit, then what do we have to fear?
We are not defined by our labels and beliefs. We are all only human, and with that comes both the ability for error and the ability to reflect, question, and seek truth.
It is no coincidence that Law IX of the Architect of Aesthetics was reserved for:
“You’re ignorant!” is often stated as an insult. However, when on the right path, ignorance is the first step towards intelligence.
When we think we know, we are blind to alternate possibilities and skip over questioning matters to recline in our comfort zone.
Therefore, approach everything fresh – even if experienced.
- Play a game of pretend. That you’ve had your memory wiped by the Men in Black.
- Play the game of a toddler enchanted by the world around him who tirelessly asks “why?”
Casting away your assumptions, beliefs, and preconceived notions is the only way to approach difficult topics and in fact, life as a whole.
This is what will enable you to see reality with clear eyes unclouded by the cloaks of indoctrination with only the faculties of logic and reason to guide you.
Unattached to your cozy chains binding you to your singular realm of perspective, you are free to circle the object of scrutiny and observe the matter from a variety of different viewpoints.
You are free to follow the trail of evidence wherever it may lead.
The only question is…
Are you ready to accept it?