October 2022: Communication

While thinking about how to describe October, I kept going back to words from Proclus in his Parmenides commentary because my thoughts were scattered — small bits of captured, frivolous internal monologue; things I had obviously written while feeling very fatigued and filter-free; and observations with no linking threads. The Proclus passage gave me a frame from which I could consider my goals with these monthly updates and (at least try) to tighten things up.

Writings of a genuinely profound and theoretical character ought not to be communicated except with the greatest caution and considered judgment, lest we inadvertently expose to the slovenly hearing and neglect of the public the inexpressible thoughts of god-like souls. The human mind cannot receive all the contents of Intellect, for there are some things known to Intellect but inconceivable by us. Nor do we think it proper to put in speech all that we think of, for there are many matters that we keep secret and unexpressed, preferring to guard them in the enclosures of our minds. Nor do we put in writing all that we express in speech; we want to keep some things in our memories unwritten, or deposit them in the imaginations and thoughts of friends, not in lifeless things. Nor do we publish indiscriminately to all the world everything that we commit to writing, but only to those who are worthy of sharing them, indulging with discrimination our eagerness to make our treasures common property with others.

Proclus, Parmenides commentary, 718, trans. Morrow & Dillon

What I struggle with sometimes is verbal scattershot, an extroverted smear of particles of speech, as if I were doing a double-slit experiment and hoping to divine meaning from the vivid wave pattern on the other side. Some of the thoughts I considered sharing this month were things that I realized could be classified as “highly tweetable” — but I’m not on Twitter now, and they did not need to be given to the public Internet. I also found myself reaching for this passage while thinking about the desire to be socially responsible towards others — of prioritizing self-restraint in favor of giving people what they need, especially in public places like this blog, prompted by my state of mind after doing a few compassion meditations. If it doesn’t help others connect with Gods, and if it’s overly based in desires or appetition (Damascius says that our love of ambition is the last to fall away …), then what is the point of it?

In non-public settings, October was truly a month that expressed the words in Proclus’ hymn to Athene, “happiness, lovely joy, / persuasion, conversations with friends, nimble wit” (ln. 48-49). I caught up with a few people via email and in-person whom I hadn’t heard from in a while. A friend and I worked through a thorny theological issue and were blessed with something beautiful from the Gods that points us in the right direction, like a lighthouse beam in treacherous fog. My favorite moment from a recent discussion with others was when we were each pulling Platonic commentaries out of everywhere to talk about something that came up. Good. Times.

Here are a few other things that happened.

I found an album called The Unfolding, composed by Hannah Peel, that reminds me of the Timaeus in its construction. It has ethereal female vocals, with great instrumentals. My favorite track is “We Are Part Mineral.”

Ane Brun’s “Take Hold of Me” was another nice find, with contemplation-for-reversion vibes.

Audiobook-wise, I finished reading The Universe Speaks in Numbers: How Modern Maths Reveals Nature’s Deepest Secrets by Graham Farmelo and thought it was informative, but not as engaging as I had hoped. I started reading How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival by David Kaiser. It promises to link the quantum revolution to physicists in the 1970s taking LSD, enjoying hot tubs, and diving into “eastern mysticism” and has been delivering on this promise thus far. In printed words, I read something about Norse Goddesses, Plotinus’ 3.8 😍, and continued a deep dive into the Phaedrus.

The new translation of Hermias: On Plato Phaedrus 246A-279C was published on October 6, which I have been waiting to read for so long. The original read of the first part is what led me to really dive deep into Platonism because the words of Syrianus are so powerful that the grandness of his soul’s insights about the Gods is communicated even by his students’ lecture notes and reminiscences. This truly echoes what Proclus composed in his hymn to the Muses in which the sacred books and words of the wise excite the soul.

Everything I read this month was such utter fire for getting me motivated, to the extent that I feel really sappy about embodied creativity right now. Admittedly, it’s mostly Ennead 3.8’s fault. Here is an impromptu poem:

fallen leaves blossom
thick-worded, kindling brightness,
uncovering veined
circuits leading up steep paths
where bliss waits, smiling

Apollon, the Lord of Abiding Compassion, is a stern teacher. All that comes from him is luminous.

So we must deal with our fellow-citizens as though they were our kin, by taking care as much as possible of their proper education — which will also result in our living with good people. We must also take care that they are not in need of necessities, and assist them in special circumstances; and we should seem like a father to the orphaned children and widowed wives. Everyone can do this, one by money, another through political power (whether the person’s own or that of friends), another by good advice, another by physical service, and another, even if in no other way, at least by consoling the fellow-citizen via sympathy.

Simplicius, On Epictetus 27-53, 89,41-52. Trans. Tad Brennan and Charles Brittain

This is a new quotation I added to the rotation on the Inner Statues account. It is a fitting and useful quotation to consider when thinking about what civic virtue actually means.

My favorite part of it is how Simplicius emphasizes that it is in everyone’s power to do something and that whatever is done must look to the well-being of the entire citizen body. Of course, and obviously, the effects of embodiment mean that we all have different idea of what constitutes proper education and what is emphasized when considering a good person. The Platonic answer involves a lot of discussion of the many-headed beasts of our appetites, our forceful emotional aspect, and how the two are ideally controlled by rationality to produce a life that is measured (limit, unlimited, mixture), and yet there’s still so much variation that happens with individual analysis and interpretation.

Contemplating this passage is especially good in the United States right now, as elections are slated to happen on Tuesday, November 8. Giving Tuesday is only a few weeks later, on Tuesday, November 29. We live in a multiethnic, multireligious, and multiracial country, and getting curious about one another and becoming sensitive to issues beyond one’s own bubble (even if one doesn’t agree; we won’t all agree, even being presented with the same data, and that is a fact of life) are absolutely essential to the project of American democracy.

I hope you all have a wonderful Halloween, Samhain, and/or whatever other holidays you celebrate.

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