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In praise of Socrates, mediocrity, and stability with a nod to where Plato was coming from


Guest articles > In praise of Socrates, mediocrity, and stability with a nod to where Plato was coming from


by: Toby Jensen


The Middle Choice

Socrates claimed that everything in the universe is in one of three states. It is either in a state of growth, a state of stability, or a state of decay. Plato, his student, striving to improve this theory, stated that there are only two states: growth or decay. Nothing is ever stable. It is either growing or it is dying.

It is simple to claim there is only growth or death. People like simplicity. This statement also gets us off the fence. It scares us into taking action. And now it is time to face that fear and destroy it. It is time to take full responsibility and lead a more peaceful fulfilling life of work, of working together.

The paradox of our need for stability and variety

I once met an elderly couple who took me aside to share with me an easier way to live my life. It is difficult to remember where I met them. Possibly I was doing my laundry on a Saturday morning at the laundry mat. All I really remember was the light that seemed to somehow radiate from her body while at the same time there was a strange flat look in her eyes. We arranged to meet later to talk as they wanted to get to know me more after some brief chit chat.

Later when I met again with the couple they offered me a ride. As they were elderly, I agreed to go. I was a bit nervous going with strangers in their van but everything turned out all right. I immediately remembered the flat look in her eyes, her deadly serious tone of voice, and the light that radiated from her body and soul. All I can remember is how flat her look was, the depth in her black eyes, and the light from her body and soul that radiated goodness, light, and satisfaction. I knew I was in trouble. I feared for what was about to happen and I had no idea what it was. I had only just met her and definitely hadn’t had time to insult her as I seemed to do with most people during that time of my life. All I knew was that I was going to need to defend something with my life and I had no idea what that was. I was confused and, well, my confusion was soon answered.

Immediately after I was seated in their van the wife turned to me and asked my why I worked so hard to get into heaven. Of course it was a loaded leading question and I picked up on that right away. But I didn’t know where she was going. I managed to mumble out some rote answers concerning growth but mostly I was confused and taken back as to what she wanted. And then she said it. She stated that she was saved. She had accepted Christ and was saved and that was all she needed to do. She declared with a certainty and conviction that she didn’t need to do anything more than accept Christ as her Savior and she would go to heaven. And that was all she needed to do in this life.

As I began to recover, my immediate thought was to expound upon my shock. I wanted to jump right in and express passionately and powerfully my ‘correct’ truths about the advantages and need for growth. I asked some basic growth related questions (that are not relevant to the discourse here now) because I knew in that moment whom I had met. I had met a stable, good, and healthy couple. She had given up growth and not fallen. And I was frightened. Here she was the physical embodiment of having spent her lifetime without growing and still radiated goodness and a resemblance of joy. Man IS that he might have joy – I think now. NOT man grows that he might have joy. All we have to do is try our best and we will have satisfaction. Achievement is NOT related to satisfaction.

Instead of continuing down a path of interrogation, I looked into her eyes. I was astounded and amazed. I still saw from her radiance that she was a good and delightful individual. In her eyes I still saw a blankness – a strange emptiness. I began to look for evil and found none. Anyone who knows me knows that when I want to be thorough I am second to none in my search. I find what I am looking for and I found no evil. I was scared and shaken. I trembled and my voice broke as I spoke. I did not know what to do as I scrambled for the elusive cohesive thoughts of still wanting to convince this dear couple of the ‘error’ of their ways. But I knew there was no evil within this woman or her sound husband. She nodded her head at my perplexity – my complexity – and spoke.

The woman spoke of her desire to lighten my load. She spoke of her life in raising her children and the satisfaction of seeing them go out into the world. She spoke of knowing she had done her work. She spoke of having accepted Christ and needing no more. She spoke knowing that she didn’t have to work anymore. She spoke of rest and of relief. And I knew who I was sitting in the presence of. I knew who she was. I knew what she had done with her life and it scared me. Then I proceeded to resolve my fear. It was not my right to fear for her. I did not even have the right to feel fear in her presence. I knew it was wrong and disrespectful. I knew I needed to stop and stop quickly or it may be used against me. This was a good woman and she deserved to be treated as such. I calmed myself and then watched something incredible happen.

I saw this woman react to my stop. She knew that she had shaken me. She had thought that she was going to shake me from my growth. She wanted to lessen my load and increase my light as she obviously had an abundance of light. What she no longer had was the potential for a greater light. She had given that up and forgotten about it. It was this potential for always greater light that ‘saved’ me. How ironic is that? The very thing that she was purporting to have no more need of is exactly what was given to me in that moment to move me forward. In acknowledging and respecting what she was I was only then given the right to move on.

And so I saw this delightful woman react to my stop. I saw into her. I saw her emotional reaction. I saw her turn to be shaken. I saw just the beginning of doubt creep into her soul and thought. I saw her begin to shake. And then came one of the most astounding things I ever witnessed. I saw her stop. I saw her stop as I just stopped. I saw her use my stop that I had just done in the prior moment. And seeing her use it I saw her grow – for only an instant. She had been watching deeply into me to see my reaction to be ready to push home her point. Only now she used what I had done to stop herself. I continued to watch her. I thought I had freed her. I thought that this was it. I thought that she had changed. For I saw her grow. And for a moment I rejoiced.

Then this woman ceased her growth. The same growth I had just witnessed spring forth into life within her. I watched her cease and desist. I watched her lifetime of staying where she was at come into full force and crush what she had just done. And she settled down. She came back into her own and was satisfied. I watched even the memory of what she had just done disappear. I watched the discomfort float away. I watched the pain seep back down. I watched the difficulty of moral decisions drift into oblivion. And I still saw her satisfied. I saw her goodness and I could not deny it. I was amazed at what I had just witnessed. I knew who I had met.

Is maintenance growth?

And I became uncomfortable. And I owned it. I reveled in it. I rejoiced. It was all I could do and it was enough. I hope that I did it without offending this wonderful couple too much while I waited for the ride to end. I was extended the pleasant offer of rest and satisfaction as a true reality and I rejected it. And I felt a little confused – only a little - in my joy. I had now achieved satisfaction in my growth and fullness of joy. For this is what it truly means to have a fullness of joy.

To this day I still use that confusion to drive me on. I keep it close and I stay aware. When I forget – no worries – it comes raging back in full force and drives me to my knees faster than lightning striking the full oak tree into smithereens. And I remember. I remember the pain – the slow limited excruciating pain while I am on my knees. Then I remember the endless joy. The unlimited joy. The unlimited growth. The potential. And I live. I live in fullness, in delight, in wonder. And I can stand up. I can take a stand.

I hope I continue to remember and live from there.

What separates growth from decay? Is there a buffer zone - no matter how small?

Thorough enjoyment, living full, achieving dreams and shouting from the rooftops are what await those who grow. To those who do what it takes to get the greatness that awaits within this life of opportunities. So grow. Grow well, grow in wealth, health, and all forms of success. It is the better path. It is the fulfillment of who we truly are and what we have in potential. But don’t put down stability. For it is only from stability that we can grow. If there is a top and a bottom there is middle. Respect it. Respect the incredible amount of work it takes to just maintain. Now we can distinguish that incredible amount of work required to only keep our place in line from the extra work of growth. Growth that – AT FIRST – is uncomfortable. We can achieve the self-sustaining work of growth to achieve lasting growth. To be able to create even life itself that will one day stand on its own within its own and for its own life and support.

Without the middle there is no leisure, there is no rest, there is no sleep. The ability to pause before we react is the middle ground. That is what makes up stability. Pondering. Mediation. Sleep at night brings rest, recuperation. The time to perform maintenance. There is no fall. When I listen I also rest. Without the middle there is also no listening, no meditation, no receiving of inspiration, no planning, and no thought. Of course there is development during these times of rest but first there must be repair. Growth is halted somewhat during these times of repair before the extension and strength develop. Is there a fall? Yes – a little. It is the step back. The step back that one must take in order to evaluate a healthy direction and BE ABLE TO go forward again. SOMETIMES in order to go forward we have to take a step back. Use this fall. And use it well. It is how we are designed and what we are designed for. There is no longer any need to fear settling. There is no longer any need to trick ourselves into growth. That is all that Plato wanted to do for us. Fence sitting has its place. We understand it now. We can use it now. We know what it offers us and we know how it tempts us. And we can freely leave it now, if we so choose.

  • There is only right and wrong.
  • There is only hot and cold.
  • There is only love or hate.
  • There is only black and white.

Plato went in a certain direction to improve on what Socrates had stated. There is always a better way. There is always a correction. Whatever anybody says somebody else will come along and say it better. That is the nature of growth.

Socrates said there is black, white, and shades of gray. Plato said there is only black and white. In continuing in the same direction that Plato started there is an interesting choice. He eliminated stability. The next step would be to eliminate decay. There is only growth. There is only life. We are eternal (at least our soul is). We have immortality. We have eternal life. We are forever. Within this context is all that is good and wonderful. It is full of hope, delight, wonder, and perfection.

Of course, the Plato’s state of life could be eliminated and all that is left is the state of decay. Some choose this state. It doesn’t seem to be much fun, maybe interesting, but certainly not fun. But it is a choice.

Going in the opposite direction of Plato back to Socrates’ perception of three states we can add two more states of existence to the already three states of Socrates. To the three states of growth, stability, and decay is added a fourth state called an interesting state. Interesting is engaging or exciting and holding the attention or curiosity. Another state that we can add is fun. Fun is something that provides mirth or amusement – place of enjoyment or playfulness. From these five states there are an infinite combination of sub-states. Rather than go into the endless details of wonderful combinations you could simply say – grow, live, be eternal, immortality for all, we are forever. Within this context is all that is good and wonderful. It is full of hope, delight, wonder, and perfection.

And now the circle is closed. Going in either direction of Socrates or Plato you come full circle to appreciate all the different choices and ways of living life offers. You can choose any part of the circle you want to live in. You can live it however you want. This is the essence of String Theory (the advancement of quantum mechanics). It is this simple. Choosing your perspective (or reality) to live in life.

Plato could have said there is black, white, shades of gray, color, and many other spectrums of light not even visible to the human eye. Whatever you can conceive and believe can become a reality. So if you choose to live in a world that is do or die – you get to. If you choose to live in a world of only stability and happiness – you get to. Or you can choose to live in a world of growth, stability, death, and everything more we can conceive and receive. All you have to do is find the doorway and enter in.

We can achieve perfection. We all know the difficult realities of actually achieving perfection within this lifetime. The difficulties and realistic possibilities that to live in achieving perfection seems to be a bit unrealistic for us in this life time. And not that we don’t keep heading towards it! Well, there is a way to achieve perfection within this lifetime. A realistic way. An achievable way. It is quick and clean. We can achieve it almost immediately. But that discussion is for another time; a time in which you will not have to take my word for it but only recognize the ring of truth in my words if it is there. All that needs to be said now is the direction has been hinted at in this paragraph.

Of course you have the right to choose your own beliefs. And I will not refute nor discourage that. I will argue what I believe and sometimes even with passion but I do not want to be accused of taking your choice away. Literally we know from string theory that we can choose our own beliefs to come into reality. But that discussion is also for another time. Choose, and choose well for only our time is limited.

Where are you living?


? Toby Jensen

Contributor: Toby Jensen

Published here on: 09-Jan-11

Classification: Development



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