This quote has been attributed to Socrates by Plato in his Apology. I first read it the quote while studying philosophy at Purdue University. I was nineteen, and at that age, “examination” of my life focused on narrow issues like whether I was studying hard enough, whether I had applied my mascara well, and whether my choice of this frat party over that one was smart.
Nowadays, my “examination” tends to be more broad: whether I have done well by my children, whether my yoga practice is yielding the benefits of enlightenment, and whether my place in my limited existence is meaningful and purposeful. I can go rounds with myself on my achievement of any of it. And at times, I yearn for the days of naivete borne of youth with its accompanying blinders.
When it comes to my writing, I have kernels of inspiration which I think could sprout into deep, culture-crossing truths. Truths about loyalty and betrayal, truths about love and heartache, truths about life and death. It’s usually in those hazy moments which straddle sleep and full consciousness that I can wrap my fingers around those gems of thought, but then I fall into dreams or begin to think of my first cup of coffee.
I am dazzled by those authors who have managed to stay in that limbo long enough to glean a story which can account for all those things we as a human race feel and experience. Those writers who have the capacity to harness their wrangling thoughts, tie them down, and describe for the rest of us the truths of living.
While I am convinced I have scraped the surface of these, in a paragraph or even a page, my telling of them is superficial.
And I am not disheartened by that.
There need to be stories which are little more than an escape into mundanity — if only to offset the horror we see on a daily basis. Our human experience would be too painful were it be one of revelation after revelation. We shouldn’t we expect that because it would kill our souls.
So when I read the stories of others, I choose those with quick-moving plots and the banal bantering of characters. It makes me feel safe.
So, that’s what I write.
Because sometimes “examination” of all things human ends up being too much for the heart and mind to hold and results in the wish to drink hemlock and be done with all that examination.