I was surrounded by friends, my work was immense, and pleasures were abundant. Life, now, was unfolding before me, constantly and visibly, like the flowers of summer that drop fanlike petals on eternal soil. Overall, I was happiest to be alone; for it was then I was most aware of what I possessed. Free to look out over the rooftops of the city. Happy to be alone in the company of friends, the company of lovers and strangers. Everything, I decided, in this life, was pure pleasure.
If you want to be a grocer, or a general, or a politician, or a judge, you will invariably become it; that is your punishment. If you never know what you want to be, if you live what some might call the dynamic life but what I will call the artistic life, if each day you are unsure of who you are and what you know you will never become anything, and that is your reward.
...he asked, "Where are you today, right now?"
Eagerly, I started talking about myself. However, I noticed that I was still being sidetracked from getting answers to my questions. Still, I told him about my distant and recent past and about my inexplicable depressions. He listened patiently and intently, as if he had all the time in the world, until I finished several hours later.
"Very well," he said. "But you still have not answered my question about where you are."
"Yes I did, remember? I told you how I got to where I am today: by hard work."
"Where are you?"
"What do you mean, where am I?"
"Where Are you?" he repeated softly.
"Where is here?"
"In this office, in this gas station!" I was getting impatient with this game.
"Where is this gas station?"
"Where is Berkeley?"
"Where is California?"
"In the United States?"
"On a landmass, one of the continents in the Western Hemisphere. Socrates, I..."
"Where are the continents?
I sighed. "On the earth. Are we done yet?"
"Where is the earth?"
"In the solar system, third planet from the sun. The sun is a small star in the Milky Way galaxy, all right?"
"Where is the Milky Way?"
"Oh, brother, " I sighed impatiently, rolling my eyes. "In the universe." I sat back and crossed my arms with finality.
"And where," Socrates smiled, "is the universe?"
"The universe is well, there are theories about how it's shaped..."
"That's not what I asked. Where is it?"
"I don't know - how can I answer that?"
"That is the point. You cannot answer it, and you never will. There is no knowing about it. You are ignorant of where the universe is, and thus, where you are. In fact, you have no knowledge of where anything is or of What anything is or how is came to be. Life is a mystery.
"My ignorance is based on this understanding. Your understanding is based on ignorance. This is why I am a humorous fool, and you are a serious jackass.
One time I saw a tiny Joshua tree sapling growing not too far from the old tree. I wanted to dig it up and replant it near our house. I told Mom that I would protect it from the wind and water it every day so that it could grow nice and tall and straight. Mom frowned at me. "You'd be destroying what makes it special," she said. "It's the Joshua tree's struggle that gives it its beauty.
And when you look at the sky you know you are looking at stars which are hundreds and thousands of light-years away from you. And some of the stars don’t even exist anymore because their light has taken so long to get to us that they are already dead, or they have exploded and collapsed into red dwarfs. And that makes you seem very small, and if you have difficult things in you life it is nice to think that they are what is called negligible, which means they are so small you don’t have to take them into account when you are calculating something.