The Story of Socrates

Author: Adam Abramowitz

The following passage is an excerpt from my novel, “A Glance Inside the Minds Eye”…

“All of the information that I retained about Socrates in college got filtered through my brain and projected as an image, a scene…

             The Story of Socrates

The guardsman’s keys rattled as he led Plato down the musky corridor of the lower jail cell. A stench of sweat, feces, and rust permeated throughout the hallway. To his left, Plato saw the shadow of a man, hunched in the corner of his cell, scratching and clawing at the top of his head. Clumps of hair were scattered throughout his cell and his tattered rags were draped over his shoulder. The man was using his rags as a head rest while he manically attempted to shake broken strands of hair onto the damp stone floor. Plato awarded the man a glance as he continued his stride towards the end of the hall. Despair was no longer a new experience for Plato to witness; he had traveled this corridor every day for weeks now. He had become accustomed to the varying ways men reacted to the reality of their own demise. The sobbing cries of inmates, the furious shouts for freedom; Plato had become aware of the vast array of emotion men feel as they approach the guillotine.

Like any other day, Plato began to refocus his mind the way his master had taught him. He trained his eye on the cell at the far end of the hall and continued his approach. The thought of calm rhythmic breaths began to develop in Plato’s mind, and his body began to respond in form. The guardsman ahead of Plato slowed his pace as they neared their destination. Turning towards the cell, the guardsman reached towards his belt and pulled out a ring of keys. Beckoning Plato to approach, the guard reached out a hand and clasped his shoulder. He looked into his eyes with remorse and nodded gently as he unlocked the gate and swung it open.

Socrates stood motionless at the far end of his cell. His neck was craned towards a small porthole positioned near the top of the far wall of his cell. Just big enough for a small breeze to occasionally permeate, the porthole was Socrates’ only window to the outside world.

“You have five minutes”, the guard whispered as he shuffled out of the cell.

Plato approached Socrates and wrapped him in his arms with a warm embrace. They both took a step back and smiled as they took seats on the cold, damp floor.

“Today is the day,” Socrates said.

Socrates began to fold his arms eloquently as he held his gaze on Plato.

“What shall we discuss?” Socrates asked.

In this moment, Plato felt speechless. In his mind, Plato began to fumble through many questions that he wanted to ask his philosophic mentor and closest friend. Time was precious between the two scholars, for each minute brought closer the end of their physical relationship on this plane of existence. Plato began to speak, but his throat swelled up as he accepted the weight of their current circumstance. All Plato could manage was a whimper as tears began to stream down his face. Socrates reached out and clasped his apprentice’s hand. Plato glanced up at his master, ashamed for his own personal outburst of emotion. Their hands rested on each others while the moment was settled and breathing was slowed again to a rhythmically calm pace. A thin smile began to appear on Socrates face as he began to speak,

“Worry not my friend, for everything is as it should be. My life’s journey has always been to learn. To gain knowledge; to share and experience truth. The key to awareness and serenity; to be present. This day is no different than any other, this moment not any more special than any I’ve had before it. This moment is sacred because it is the only moment we will ever have. More real than our fear, more sacred than our holiest texts, this moment is now and now never ends.”

Socrates continued speaking:

“My whole life has lead up to this moment. Everything I’ve learned, all the experiences I’ve had, have brought me the closest I will ever be to God. My life long quest for truth, for knowledge, for an answer to the most profound question of all will soon be answered. With my death, I will achieve that which I’ve sought my entire life. I will know everything. I will be released from the realm of physical reality and embraced into the infinite possibility of the realm of the spirit. I will be a part of the greater, the consciousness of God. I am no different than any other who has passed before me. I anticipate on learning the answer to the one question every human across all time and history has asked, “Why are we here?”

The cell door began to scrape across the floor as it was opened.

“It’s time”, the guard announced.

Plato and Socrates stood slowly, their eyes not wavering from each others face. Socrates shot Plato one last grin as he enveloped his friend with a warm embrace.

“Never stop questioning, look for truth,” Socrates said as he held his friend at arm’s length.

Socrates turned towards the exit of his cell as the guard beckoned both men to follow him. Their feet shuffled as they made their way towards the exit of the prison. As they climbed the steps into the main floor of the jail, Plato’s discomfort and fear began to recede within him. Staring straight ahead, Plato fixed his gaze on the back of Socrates’ tattered robes. Wind began to coolly wisp through his gown as they made their way to the courtyard of the prison.

The afternoon sun beamed shyly at the group as they made their way towards the guillotine propped up in the center of the courtyard. A gathering of men sat on benches to the left of the display and a faint murmur of approval resounded as Socrates took his place underneath the mechanically efficient dealer of death. On his knees, Socrates took one last look at the world around him. The sun had now been almost completely covered by cloud. Only small rays were able to peek around the billowy surface area of the gaseous expanse of grey. The sounds of the market place and the shouts of children playing echoed throughout the courtyard from outside the confines of the prison.

Socrates began to focus his thoughts on that of the children and their playful shouts as he slowly inched his neck through the guillotine head rest. Looking down, Socrates stared straight into the wicker basket that would be his final resting place. With great effort, Socrates craned his neck towards the bench of men sitting to his right. He beamed an empathetic glance and took a deep breath. Time began to slow to a crawl as Socrates readjusted his neck into a more comfortable position, staring straight down into the wicker basket. He found great beauty in the wicker, the miniscule strands making up the fiber that would be the cradle for his own release into the realm of the spirit.

A sudden crack of steel resounded and the guillotine groaned as the heavy metal blade began to shriek towards its final destination. Socrates instinctively began to flex the muscles of his body as he began to feel the pinch of weight clamp onto his neck. The wicker basket he had been staring at began to shift upwards and a great feeling of inertia overtook Socrates’ reality. No longer staring at the basket, Socrates was now looking up at the guillotine, and beyond that, the grey sky. The edges of his vision began to fade into obscurity as he attempted to make sense of his physical state. The guillotine, the sky, the cool air, everything began to blend into itself. All sense of sight and feel began to dissipate. He tried to blink, but was unable to control his eyelid.

“Everything for nothing”, Socrates thought.

The last syllable of his thought held like sludge in his mind as his consciousness faded…

There are a few important things that I must point out:
1) The story you have just read has no basis in reality. The images I have created for Socrates and Plato are my own, and I admit that there is no source for the scene you have just read. It is strictly imagination.
2) Even though the following scene is imaginative, I still feel I must point out three solid facts.

             A) The Guillotine had not been invented during the time of Socrates and Plato. It was invented in the 18th century by Antoine Louis and Tobias Schmidt. I know this because I just looked it up on the internet.
            B) Socrates did not die by guillotine. He drank poison and died as his body went numb. I know this, because I also just looked it up on the internet.
            C) I somehow managed to combine my love for the Mel Gibson movie “Braveheart” with the collected learnings of Socrates, retained from my college course on philosophy. Actually, I’m pretty sure the final scene of “Braveheart”, when William Wallace is beheaded, didn’t have a guillotine in it either… no, it didn’t. Wallace looks up to the sky, wide-eyed and groaning as an axe, not a guillotine, gets slammed into his neck. I know, it doesn’t make much sense. Why is there a guillotine in the scene I’ve written?

I remember hearing a story about a man of science who lived in the 16th century during the renaissance. This scientist was set to be executed. He told his assistant to record how many times he was able to blink his eyes after his head was severed from his body. He was attempting to discover how long he could remain conscious after being dislocated from his torso. A final experiment. I wish I could tell you how many times he blinked, but I would be making up a number. If you really need one, let’s go with 20 times. That sounds fair.

Somehow I managed to combine an idea of two men (Socrates and Plato), the imagery of one of my favorite films, “Braveheart”, and a story about a man of science who wanted to see how many times he could blink after he died to create the short story you just read.

Creativity: is anything ever our own, or are we just absorbing and re-arranging the stimulation of our own life and experiences? Borrowing and shifting the art that we have been shown, as we create the things we wish we could see…” ©

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