Socrates is such an important figure in the root history of modernity that he is almost easy to overlook; his example seems by now almost cliché, too obvious. But we can’t lose sight of how original and phosphorescent he was in the history of human evolution. He dared those around him to question their lives, to take nothing for granted, to accept no authority but that of their own mind. “The unexamined life is not worth living”. It is hard to truly capture how radical this statement was in 5th century Greece. It was alien, otherworldly. What the hell was this guy talking about? It didn’t make sense. The gods were the source of authority, or leaders, or tyranny and brute force, but- myself? Radical. Socrates was put to death for this rabble rousing, which is understandable enough. Power doesn’t like being challenged today, and it didn’t like it much then either. Socrates called into question everything, no foundation of the ancient Greek world was left standing. But it was more than that. The human being was starting to light up from within. It was the light of reason and the birth of autonomous man.
After Socrates’ time a crazy flourishing of the potentials of the human mind would erupt in the ancient Greek world- math, music, philosophy, drama, tragedy, geometry and more. Something had come forth into time, a mutation in the human animal had taken place. And it was Socrates’ bravery and courage that helped this new thing stick. At his trial he was asked to retract his teachings in order to save his life. Go fuck yourself, was his answer. Socrates taunted the jury, saying that he should get free dinners for life for his service to the city of Athens. He believed in the type of life he led, the life of thinking for yourself, and he was willing to die for this value. This act has remained a potent symbol through the ages. It contains too much truth, too much energy and vigor to ever really die. A line was crossed. It would only be a matter of time before this luminescence would stage a comeback, try again, erupt once more. And it did. We live in that world.