the process is the artwork

Most gladly have I escaped from a mad and furious master

“You don’t come to see me, Socrates, as often as you ought: If I were still able to go and see you I would not ask you to come to me. But at my age I can hardly get to the city, and therefore you should come oftener to the Piraeus. For let me tell you, that the more the pleasures of the body fade away, the greater to me is the pleasure and charm of conversation (…)

I replied: There is nothing which for my part I like better, Cephalus, than conversing with aged men; for I regard them as travellers who have gone a journey which I too may have to go, and of whom I ought to enquire, whether the way is smooth and easy, or rugged and difficult. And this is a question which I should like to ask of you who have arrived at that time which the poets call the ‘threshold of old age’–Is this life harder towards the end, or what report do you give of it?

I will tell you, Socrates, he said, what my own feeling is. Men of my age flock together; we are birds of feather, as the old proverb says; and at our meetings the tale of my acquaintance commonly is–I cannot eat, I cannot drink; the pleasures of my youth and love are fled away: there was a good time once, but now that is gone, and life is no longer life. Some complain of the slights which are put upon them by relations, and they will tell you sadly of many evils their old age is the cause. But to me, Socrates, these complainers seem to blame that which is not really in fault. For if old age is the cause, I too being old, and every other old man, would have felt as they do. But this is not my own experience, nor that of others whom I have known. How well I remember the old poet Sophocles, when in answer to the question, How does love suit with age, Sophocles, –are you still the man you were? Peace, he replied; most gladly have I escaped from a mad and furious master. His words have often occurred in my mind since, and they seem as good to me now as the time when he uttered them. For certainly old age has a great sense of calm and freedom; when the passions relax their hold, then, as Sophocles says, we are freed from the grasp not of one mad master only, but of many. The truth is, Socrates, that these regrets, and also the complaints about relations, are to be attributed to the same cause, which is not old age, but men’s characters and tempers; for he who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden.”

– Plato. The Republic. (Annotated) [Kindle Edition March 5th 2014].

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