Friday, November 12, 2010

Plato Would Not Approve

When I go for a walk, sometimes I like to use it as an excuse to get some sunshine, listen to music, and empty my head for a little bit. Sometimes, though, my brain wants a little something to chew on. Often this is something I’m working on that needs to percolate in my subconscious, or else it’s something non work-related that’s on my mind.

Sometimes something presents itself to me while I’m walking. This urban koan is a good example. Not a quarter of a mile into a recent north Oakland stroll, I found this stump, which someone had taken a chain saw to and made into this pentagonal form. That’s intriguing enough—why would someone go to all this trouble to transform a dead street tree?

What really kept my mind turning during the next half hour or so was the graffiti on the stump, saying that, “Plato Would Not Approve.” What does that mean?

I took exactly one philosophy course in college. I didn’t really enjoy it, and didn’t give the readings as much attention as I did, say, lunch, which came right after (and sometimes during) this particular class. Consequently, twenty years later I tend to confuse what I think I learned in school and what I really learned from the Monty Python Philosopher’s Drinking Song . Which is a long way of saying that I don’t really know what Plato thought about much of anything except maybe whisky.

This didn’t stop me from trying, although like any good koan, there is probably no right answer, just possibilities.

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