Are you ever intimidated by the academy? Do you ever feel like the single Philosophy 101 course you took in college is an insufficient recommendation for you to hold your own during dinner-party arguments? “Ooh, I don’t know any Latin, I probably don’t stack up too great compared to scholars of the past.” Okay, well, stop feeling inadequately prepared at once because 1000% of Greek philosophy was just this:
“Zeno is described as a haggard, tanned person, living a spare, ascetic life. This coincides with the influences of Cynic teaching, and was, at least in part, continued in his Stoic philosophy. From the day Zeno became Crates’s pupil, he showed a strong bent for philosophy, though with too much native modesty to assimilate Cynic shamelessness. Hence Crates, desirous of curing this defect in him, gave him a potful of lentil-soup to carry through the Ceramicus; and when he saw that Zeno was ashamed and tried to keep it out of sight, Crates broke the pot with a blow of his staff. As Zeno began to run off in embarrassment with the lentil-soup flowing down his legs, Crates chided “Why run away, my little Phoenician? Nothing terrible has befallen you.”
Okay? Okay. Like: don’t let the past intimidate you. It was just tanned guys too embarrassed to carry soup through Athens without spilling it, and their teachers yelling, essentially, “Stop hitting yourself” at them. The past was absolute nonsense. And it’s these guys we credit with inventing philosophy! What if I made someone from Phoenicia feel bad about carrying a bowl of lentils, truly I have discovered the life of the mind.
A of all, if your society considers it embarrassing to carry a jug of legumes in public, your society needs some serious work; B of all, if your philosophy instructor thinks spilling soup on your thigh-meat in public and yelling out what town you were born in is an effective method of treating social anxiety, you need a better teacher. Fix your life, classical Greek thinkers! The inheritance of Socrates has got to be more than just, like, some spilled pulses. “Ooh, we’d better all think a lot about rhetoric.” Do we?? Because the same dudes who invented that also thought public stew-based humiliations are an effective treatment for low self-esteem.
You’re doing fine. Honestly. Whatever you’re doing in your life, you are thinking great thoughts and inspiring great deeds in comparison. Soup-yelling motherfuckers.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.