Thursday, September 4, 2014

From Socrates' Talk to His Friends Before Drinking the Hemlock.

Friends, who would have acquitted me, I would like to talk with you about this thing which has happened, before I go to the place at which I must die. Stay then awhile, for we may as well talk with one another while there is time. You are my friends, and I should like to show you the meaning of this event which has happened to me. O my judges ¬for so I may truly call you, I should like to tell you of a wonderful circumstance.

Hitherto the familiar oracle within me has constantly been in the habit of opposing me, even in trifles, if I was going to make a slip or err in any matter; and now, as you see, there has come upon me the last and worst evil. But the oracle made no sign of opposition, either as I was leaving my house and going out in the morning, or while I was speaking, at anything which I was going to say; and yet I have often been stopped in the middle of a speech; but now in nothing that I either said or did touching this matter has the oracle opposed me. What do I take to be the explanation of this! I will tell you. I regard this as a great proof that what has happened to me is a good; and that those who think that death is an evil are in error. For the customary sign would surely have opposed me had I been going to evil and not to good. Let us reflect in another way, and we shall see that there is great reason to hope that death is a good. For one of two things- either death is a state of nothingness; or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another.

Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by the sight of dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain. For if a person were to select the night in which his sleep was undisturbed even by dreams, and were to compare this with the other days and nights of his life; and then were to tell us how many days and nights he had passed in the course of his life better and more pleasantly than this one, I think this man- I will not say a private man, but even the great king- will not find many such days or nights, when compared with others. Now if death is like this I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night.

But if death is the journey to another place-'-and there, as men say, all the dead are-what good can be greater than this? If, indeed, when the pilgrim arrives in the world below, he is delivered from the professors of justice in this world, and finds the true judges who are said to give judgment there.

Above all, I shall then be able to continue my search into true and false knowledge, as in this world, so also in that. And I shall find out who is wise, and who pretends to be wise and is not. What would not a man give to be able to examine the leader of the Trojan expedition; or Odysseus, or Sisyphus, or numberless others-men and women, too! What infinite delight would there be in conversing with them and asking questions in another world they do not put a man to death for asking questions; assuredly not. For besides being happier in that world than in this, they will be immortal, if what is said be true. Wherefore, be of good cheer about death, and know of a certainty that no evil can happen to a good man, either in this life or after death. He and his are not neglected by the gods, nor has my own approaching, end happened by mere chance. But I see clearly that to die and be released was better for me; and therefore the oracle gave no sign.

For which reason, also, I am not angry with my condemners or with my accusers. They have done me no harm, although they did not mean to do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them. Still I have a favor to ask of them. When my sons grow up, I would ask you, my friends, to punish them. And I would have you trouble them, as I have troubled you, if they seem to care about riches or anything more than about virtue. Or if they pretend to be something when they are really nothing, then reprove them, as I have reproved you, for not caring about that for which they ought to care, and thinking that they are really something when they are really nothing. And if you do this, I and my sons will have received justice at your hands.

The hour of my departure has arrived, and we go our ways-I to die, and you to live. Which is better, God only knows.

-From Socrates' Talk to His Friends Before Drinking the Hemlock.

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