What Today Brings
“When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the losers.” Socrates
Growing up I heard again and again about rational self-counseling. My mother had returned to school for her master’s in psychology and was deeply entrenched at the University of Kentucky. There was a book circulating about this time called “I’m Okay, You’re Okay.” The premise being to approach each person with respect, recognizing they are okay. If you did this, you would not project ‘un-wellness’ onto them in order to feel well yourself. You would not try to make yourself feel better by making them feel worse in some sort of comradery, “I’m not okay, You’re not okay.” Our first great moral philosopher, Socrates, lived in Greece over in the fifth Century B.C. He was the moral compass in a land that gravely needed one. He was just, if nothing else. Socrates lived to learn and teach; this was his gold. The most important duty of man, he believed, was the pursuit of truth. He supposed that one who was preoccupied with accumulating wealth missed the point. Socrates was so wise in denouncing tyrannical government and encouraging citizens to think for themselves, reaching ethical conclusions by questioning everything, that he was put on trial and sentenced to death for corrupting the youth of Athens. So it goes; you can’t control a people who think for themselves. We can honor Socrates for bringing to light the first Western philosophical think tank. Back in 399 B.C., Socrates voiced what the authors of “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” proposed about the danger of slander in order to prop oneself up. When one fails to prove their point or in some cases make it, and turns to attack the other side, it is a sure sign of weakness. A sure sign they did not feel valid standing by the argument alone. A wise man or woman spoke the truth and by it being truth, it stood alone. There is no place in a civilized society for slander. “I met a young man who was wounded in hatred,” Bob Dylan sang. Nothing good comes from hatred. Nothing. When we feel insulted, it’s natural for some of us scrappy ones to knee jerk into an attack. You don’t like what I’m doing? Let’s examine your behavior. Let’s dig up your dirt and spread it all over so we know who is morally superior. How embarrassingly anti-Socratic. It’s obviously a defense mechanism put into action to quell a shaky sense of self. Surely, after a long meditation on the big picture, on all that we are and how each living thing is connected to a divine sense of eternity, if someone makes a tiny dig, we will be less likely to fire back a nasty assessment of their character. To beat people down instead of lifting them up is most certainly a character flaw. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it is possible to overcome this divisive method of communication. It will take inner strength. It will take forgiveness and more empathy than we are used to mustering. In the end, when we let negativity flow through and past us, not hang on to that palpable energy, but let it go, it will feel wrong to hurl negativity toward another. It will feel wrong because it is wrong. We have no right to make judgements and no right to attempt to make someone feel bad about themselves. Personally, unless I move to a monastery, extricating myself from the movers and shakers of an ambitious culture, it is unlikely I will ever fully achieve this goal. Still, I can recognize the ill feeling I get when someone proposes ill will on another. I can appreciate my disgust at reveling in a “Celebrity Roast” where humor is found at the expense of another. I can resist the instinct to fight and know I am okay and you are okay. From the depth of my heart, I believe we will experience this knowing the moment we go to the other side of whatever this is. Love is the answer; peace, love and understanding.