Barcelona, August 2013
Text: Sairica R.
Composing the wisdom of the future, signing thoughts and calculations that would survive centuries, wars (and even fashions) to inspire the entire Western world… Being a philosopher in the ancient Mediterranean must have been rather a demanding day job. You have to wonder what was on their checklist and in their bags and pockets. Surely, carrying something to write on and to write with at every moment. Finding the perfect sun-drenched plaza, temple or shoreline… the right balance of warmth and silence to frame the ritual of being, seeing and creating. What were the great Mediterranean thinkers really like? What did they do when they weren’t waiting for the breeze to dry the ink on a simple sentence that the future would never, ever forget?
Ink runs… thoughts walk
“Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”
This Greek philosopher and polymath wandered around a lot while he was thinking. While he was teaching, Aristotle would pace the school grounds, obliging his students to follow. This earned his pupils the nickname “The Peripatetics” meaning “people who walk around.”
Madness and genius = sea and shore?
"Stand a little less between me and the sun.”
Diogenes, founder of the cynics, enjoyed the reputation for being a mad genius … or was he a wise madman? Either way he wasn’t a huge fan of the elite – nevertheless, his reputation earned him some serious respect among high society folks. Alexander the Great was so intrigued by Diogenes that he trekked to Athens to find the philosopher at his home (a converted empty wine vat). When Alex humbly requested an audience with the philosopher, Diogenes candidly replied: "Could you move? You're blocking my light."
Philosophers need time out too…
“I'm trying to think, don't confuse me with facts.”
Plato. Philosopher. Mathematician. Philosophical dialogue writer. Student of Socrates. Man with broad shoulders (hence the nickname “Plato”). And... a wrestler? Yes. When thinking was too much, Plato got down and pushed and pummeled that work stress away. Apparently, it helped him clear his mind to face another day of changing the world before the world knew it needed changing…
Filthy man and his questions…
“Prefer knowledge to wealth, for the one
is transitory, the other perpetual.”
Socrates. The Father of Western Philosophy. A leading man in his very own Greek tragedy. He refused to rebuke his own words and drank the poison gladly. Socrates never wrote anything – that we know of. However, his pupils did, the wrestler Plato and the adventurer Xenophon, they wrote down Socrates´s wisdom…that’s how we know… We also know that Socrates didn’t wash…he had the ritual of never changing his clothes before sleeping. He considered it to be efficient not to change clothes. He also couldn’t be bothered with shoes. In summer and winter he walked the streets of Athens barefoot with a large stick, his sole purpose to intimidate his fellow citizens with his moral questions… and those questions lead him to his last drink but made the world ponder for ever more.
Time is written by hand
Today, sitting in a sun-drenched café, travellers can reflect on what the ancient philosophers have brought to all our tables. Thoughts we can open like a book. That are as timeless and powerful as they were the day they were immortalized on paper. If we could rewind the millennia, pause and find the philosophers sitting beside us, stirring the universe with our coffee spoons. What would we ask them? Surely... to sign our notebooks.