The scene is Athens, 400 BC. A bunch of local brainiacs have gotten together, wine is being passed and ideas are flowing fast and furiously. The debate is in full force and Socrates has the floor. Who enters? Alcibiades. Drunk, a beautiful man, hopelessly in love with his mentor, Socrates. And uniquely in all their dialogues, Socrates doesn’t get the last world, Alcibiades does.


Because passion, Plato seems to be saying, is essentially and mercilessly human. And the best that we can hope to do is to quell it, through relentless discipline. To Socrates, the healthy life is comprised of constant focus by the individual, to exorcise those forces that weaken or confuse his understanding of the world around him. He implores us to devote our lives to this kind of control, meaning our every waking moment.

Socrates recognized what every philosopher and religion for that matter in the history of the world from Plato to Aristotle, from Epicurus to the Stoics, from the Judeo-Christians to the Buddhists have all observed, which is that, the BALANCE NEEDED FOR A HAPPY LIFE IS ILLUSORY; and as soon as, in our gorgeously flawed human way we think that we have attained it, we are pretending divinity and we’re going to crash like Icarus, flaming into the sea.

[Taken from the opening scene of Leaves of Grass: 2009]