A Single Act – Surviving Despots with A Daughter of Levi, Diotima and Socrates

RIP Kobe and Gianna Bryant

The biblical narrative of the circumstances surrounding the birth and survival of Moses is an intriguing one. Those who know the story of Moses, will agree that much more attention is given to the acts of Moses himself, with less attention paid to the wisdom of his mother.

The story goes that a despotic regime arose in Egypt which sought to reduce the perceived threat of the population explosion and success of the Israelites living there, by eliminating all male born children. The order was given to throw all newborn male children into river, following an earlier order which failed in seeing the midwives kill the boys at birth.

Moses’ mother rather than allowing him to be thrown into the river, took him there herself, only that she left him at the bank of the river, strategically placed to attract the sympathy of the daughter of pharaoh, who eventually hired her and actually paid her to take care of her own son, whom pharaoh’s daughter had adopted.

This singular act of love guided by wisdom by Moses mother, not only got him to live, but even got pharaoh to use his resources to cater for he whom would become his greatest nemesis.

These days many people feel helpless in the face of despots and assume that sycophancy and resignation to fate as evidenced by blind followership, is the only way to survive. In actual sense, the key to surviving despots is wisdom, as their expectations are unreasonable and obeying them can never lead to happiness.

Such is the greatness of love that it drives us towards wisdom, consequently, actions guided by love lead to wiser decisions. Not the kind of love exhibited by despots who live in the delusion hat they can achieve immortality through fame, but love for the truly beautiful things of life. For despots in their delusion, assume they are immortal.

The following conversation took place between Diotima and Socrates, describing the ways in which love of the beautiful and the love of power drive men:

… “nor does any man who is wise seek after wisdom. Neither do the ignorant seek after wisdom. For herein is the evil of ignorance, that he who is neither good nor wise is nevertheless satisfied with himself: he has no desire for that of which he feels no want.’ ‘But who then, Diotima,’ I said, ‘are the lovers of wisdom, if they are neither the wise nor the foolish?’ ‘A child may answer that question,’ she replied; ‘they are those who are in a mean between the two; Love is one of them. For wisdom is a most beautiful thing, and Love is of the beautiful; and therefore Love is also a philosopher or lover of wisdom, and being a lover of wisdom is in a mean between the wise and the ignorant.”

… “For love, Socrates, is not, as you imagine, the love of the beautiful only.’ ‘What then?’ ‘The love of generation and of birth in beauty.’ ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Yes, indeed,’ she replied. ‘But why of generation?’ ‘Because to the mortal creature, generation is a sort of eternity and immortality,’ she replied; ‘and if, as has been already admitted, love is of the everlasting possession of the good, all men will necessarily desire immortality together with good: Wherefore love is of immortality.’

All this she taught me at various times when she spoke of love. And I remember her once saying to me, ‘What is the cause, Socrates, of love, and the attendant desire? See you not how all animals, birds, as well as beasts, in their desire of procreation, are in agony when they take the infection of love, which begins with the desire of union; whereto is added the care of offspring, on whose behalf the weakest are ready to battle against the strongest even to the uttermost, and to die for them, and will let themselves be tormented with hunger or suffer anything in order to maintain their young. Man may be supposed to act thus from reason; but why should animals have these passionate feelings? Can you tell me why?’ Again I replied that I did not know. She said to me: ‘And do you expect ever to become a master in the art of love, if you do not know this?’ ‘But I have told you already, Diotima, that my ignorance is the reason why I come to you; for I am conscious that I want a teacher; tell me then the cause of this and of the other mysteries of love.”

… “I was astonished at her words, and said: ‘Is this really true, O thou wise Diotima?’ And she answered with all the authority of an accomplished sophist: ‘Of that, Socrates, you may be assured;—think only of the ambition of men, and you will wonder at the senselessness of their ways, unless you consider how they are stirred by the love of an immortality of fame. They are ready to run all risks greater far than they would have run for their children, and to spend money and undergo any sort of toil, and even to die, for the sake of leaving behind them a name which shall be eternal.”

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Let our actions be guided by love, and wisdom will lead the way. It’s easy to see through crafty people sooner or later, and true greatness can never be achieved thus.

Ande Elisha

The Amateur Philosopher