I read the final five books of the Laws on a single Sunday last month during the early days of the stay-at-home order in my state. It took about eight hours, and at the end of it I was intellectually spent. It took me an hour or two to recharge.
When I read, I usually play either wind chime albums or playlists of ambient classical music because I need something other than silence. That day, I chose to listen to a very long playlist of experimental post-classical. It covered a miscellany of styles and lengths.
The last song that came on during the reading marathon was “De Tijd (Time)” by Louis Andriessen, about 2/3 of an hour long. It sounds like chimes and clocks with an unsettling orchestral accompaniment — haunting, beautiful.
As I finished reading the Laws, I was keenly aware that this was one of the final things Plato wrote, which made the questions and statements about virtue at the end (starting with 962c, sort of) even more pressing. The four virtues mentioned are courage, restraint, justice, and wisdom, and without them being cultivated, none of us stands a chance, especially not those who are in positions of power and authority over others. Without going back to my bookshelf and opening the dialogue or navigating to it on my Kobo, when “De Tijd” plays, I am only left with a recollection of the urgency I felt on that Sunday afternoon and some uneasy (related) questions about how one resolves conflicts inside of oneself to truly achieve virtue. Recollections are not the dialogue itself, though.
Now that I’ve finally finished reading the dialogues according to the Iamblichean curriculum, I’m in a nice position to have at least a dim sketch of a mental map of the dialogues, how they interrelate, and where different things are located within them. It’s useful when reading Late Platonists.
I have now read:
- First Alcibiades
- Seventh Letter
I need to reread a few of the ones I read more than a few years ago because I do not remember them that well, but the never-read ones are:
- Greater Hippias
- Lesser Hippias
- Other letters
In March 2018, when I said that I would do a second attempt at reading through Plato, the path was daunting. Since then, I switched the reading order I had planned to do, and I decided to read commentaries alongside the dialogues (for the most part; I’m still working my way through them). I am bad at acknowledging and savoring achievements, so I tried to celebrate the end of the Iamblichean sequence for more than a nanosecond — shortly after I finished the Timaeus, the last dialogue in the sequence, I bought a triangle-patterned cloth mask on Etsy to commemorate it.
As far as the lockdown itself goes, originally, I was giving myself some more lenience on social media tools like Twitter. I’m about to pull back because I am falling out of alignment with my content goals, and the pause will give me some time to think about recalibrating. That should be a boon when it comes to both reading more things on my list and doing my writing projects. Working through Plato over the past few years has been fun.
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