Although he lived from 470 to 399 BCE, the wise words from Socrates are still relevant today. Following his death, Socrates became one of the most famous philosophers of the ancient world. He is especially well known for his Socratic method, which is a method of asking probing questions to help people reach logical conclusions. For someone who was so wise, Socrates received very little education, but that didn’t stop him from setting out to challenge Athenian values and teach the young people of Athens. Ultimately, his outspokenness led to his demise. In 399 BCE Socrates was sentenced to death by hemlock poisoning for committing impious acts and corrupting the Athenian youth. Thankfully, the wise words from Socrates survived the censures of the government, and many generations have had the opportunity to benefit from his wisdom.
Socrates was famous for explaining that his wisdom came from knowing he was ignorant. In one instance he stated, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Although it sounds like an oxymoron, this statement is actually very true. When I was a teenager, I thought I knew everything, but now that I am older I realize how little I know. I don’t profess to be as wise as Socrates, but I have come to the understanding that knowledge and wisdom don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Wisdom comes with experience, which is something you gain as you grow older. Of all of the wise words from Socrates, his explanation regarding wisdom is perhaps one of the most profound. Although, there are many other profound statements that will make you think.
2. Rags and Riches
Sometimes modern society has a preoccupation with material goods. However, Socrates asserted, “He is the richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” Even before the Common Era, Socrates recognized that happiness could not be bought with material items. True happiness comes from within. From experience, I know that contentment comes from the simplest of things like taking a walk on a beautiful evening, not downloading songs onto my iPod. Frankly, the latter can be more frustrating than enjoyable. So, for peace and happiness I try to stick to Socrates' advice and keep things simple.
3. Busy Bee
Socrates emphasized that people “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” It is easy to place great importance on being busy, successful, and productive. However, people who become too busy can miss out on quite a bit. A busy life can be a lonely life. Being busy with work or school can often mean missing out on important family events or even just spending quality time with family and friends. When I was in college I was very busy, which meant I had no free time to spend with the people I cared about. This became very frustrating and lonely. Thankfully, I now know that there is much more to life than productivity, and I make an effort to spend time with my friends and family.
One of Socrates' most memorable quotes is, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” How mundane would life be without curiosity? I know I would become very bored if I didn’t learn new things and try to find answers to my questions. Curiosity is such an important quality to have. It makes life interesting and it helps you continue to learn and grow. For an interesting and meaningful life, follow Socrates' example and ask a lot of questions so you can continue to learn new things and keep life meaningful.
5. Be Your Ideal
At one time or another, everyone is guilty of pretending to be someone they are not or someone they wish to be. This is often considered a negative quality, but Socrates had a different take on it. He asserted, “The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.” When I first read this quote I was a little taken aback; however, after consideration I realized the value of this statement. If everyone strived to actually be the person they present to the world, the world would probably be a much better place. Also, each person would maintain integrity, which is a very desirable quality.
6. Change Yourself First
Socrates declared, “Let him that would move the world first move himself.” I love this quote because it eloquently illustrates that change begins within. In order to make any change in the world you always have to start with yourself. For example, if veganism is important to you, you should first change your lifestyle to encompass vegan ideals. You can then start to educate other people about your belief system, but only after you make changes within. This applies to every area that people may wish to change, not just veganism. Always remember to start from within when you desire change.
Socrates’ wise advice regarding friends included, “Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm and constant.” This is great advice when it comes to friendship. Entering cautiously into a friendship is always a good idea because you have to get to know the other person, and you have to trust them. One of the foundations of friendship is trust, which can only be built with time. However, once built, you will have a long term friend. I have had some of my friends for years, and I value their friendship more than anything. I know they will always be there for me, and I will always be there for them.
Despite the fact that he lived thousands of years ago, Socrates' words are still relevant today. His wisdom transcends time, and reading his quotes can teach many things about life. Whenever I read some of Socrates’ quotes I always feel like I come away with a deeper understanding of life. Which of Socrates’ quotes had the most profound effect upon you?