Life and Death

Turning Pro:

” …someone looks down on each of us in difficult hours-a friend, a wife, somebody alive or dead, or a God-and he would not expect us to disappoint him. He would hope to find us suffering proudly-not miserably-knowing how to die.” Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Is knowing how to die any different from knowing how to live?

As the Oligarchs ruled Athens in the aftermath of the Peloponnesian War, a statesman named Theramenes was caught negotiating the struggle between democracy and tyranny. He gave a speech to the assembly decrying the brutalities of the ruling party – no moral judgment but rather that it was stupid and self-destructive to treat ones citizens as though they did not matter. Dictatorship or not, they ought not use violence as a solution to political problems. In what looked like one of those uniquely Greek moments where an issue is decided on the merits of its public explanation, he was overwhelmed with applause, the clear winner of his case. But when the jury went to deliberate, the ruling tyrant Critias ordered troops to shackle and remove him under a sentence of death.

As they dragged Theramenes through the streets, he screamed the injustice of Critias at every house and home. Him today, he cried, you tomorrow. When guard told him that he’d soon come to regret not silencing himself, he replied “Shall I not still suffer, if I do?” and continued to shame his peers for their inaction.

They handed him the hemlock, which he quickly downed – but not before pouring one out for his homies and saying “Here’s to that delightful fellow, Critias.” [1][2]

[1] A History of My Times, Xenophon (Penguin)

[2] Pour out a Little Liquor

UD: Pour One Out

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