The year is 399 BC. The city, Athens. On this day, the society that invented philosophia – the love of wisdom – will kill its wisest man. Socrates’ relentless pursuit of truth was famous. The Oracle of Delphi couldn’t have been clearer: “No man is wiser than Socrates.” But for all his wisdom, he upset the wrong men. Whether it was the Sophists or the Natural Philosophers he had attacked, or simply another member of the Ekklesia he had embarassed, powerful men began to plot against him. Those men convinced Lycon, Anytus, and Meletus to accuse Socrates of atheism and corrupting the youth of Athens. They convinced enough of the 500 jurors to find him guilty. The guilty decision was close; the death sentence was overwhelming.
Beautiful, powerful essay mate - thank you for sharing.
Very powerful Latham--a call to existential truth for the many others in a generation of America’s best who have been badly served, and arguably betrayed, by the current American ruling class. I just attended the promotion ceremony of a young Army officer to Captain and these issues are much in my mind. You’ve framed them compellingly through your admirable life story and hard-won insights. Looks like you were an E2-C Hawkeye pilot; my brother was an NFO on the USS Carl Vinson. Thank you for your service and for this great essay, I’ll share it with family and the public.
Latham - this piece was astonishing. With some essays I feel like I can “take a ride” on them for weeks or months, and glean something new every time. This is one of those. So much wisdom. So much heart.
Your ripple extends broadly in the world.
Keep it up.
This is fantastic. You traveled far with this one.
WOW such a powerful piece Latham, thank you for opening up, putting this down on paper and sharing it with us. I related to so many pieces in this and also found myself wondering about my own pursuits in life. Ok, now here's a series of quotes I couldn't help but pulling because they just hit different!
"So often, what helped us spread our wings starts to feel like a cage, and we feel the bars pressing into us as we keep growing." Gah, I've felt this before and it's a hard thing to realize that the thing that got you to this point isn't the thing that will get you to the next one.
This resonated: "Socrates hadn’t loved obedience or service; he loved truth. He hadn’t said, “Know thy place.” He’d said, “Know thyself.” I hadn’t known myself in a long time, but I was ready to."
I wonder this too: "I love sitting around our family table, laughing for hours at the kids’ jokes while our food gets cold, but I wonder if this is my answer or a distraction from my search." Though, I do always use happiness as a check in metric. But it's always a balance. I loved your example with your daughter and the ice cream!
"Many of us are tired of trying to improve at the margins while the essence eludes us. We’re discarding our Oura health score and our daily running logs, replacing them with the ideals of our ancestors" SO WELL SAID
Dude I love this. It’s full of so much emotion and tension, both personal and universal. I grapple with the same kinds of questions, like is life all about the next generation (stealing licks of your daughter’s ice cream and sharing jokes at the dinner table), or something else? I don’t have kids, and I often wonder if my existential tension would disappear if I popped out a couple little ones. Shrug. I guess each of us has to decide for ourselves...
I never cease to be challenged by your essays, Latham. They force me to think deeply and engage on topics. Thank you for this structured, evocative conversation into deep territory.
Too much to re-quote. But I love this "I realized I hadn’t wasted my time honing my devotion to an ideal; I had honed myself to seek the right ideals."
Latham, I find myself in agreement with Karena, there is too much to re-quote, but know that throughout the whole piece I lingered in wonder at your articulate vulnerability. It's no easy task to skillfully allow others to watch you think and grow, but your writing feels like a such a window. Listening to your often expressed longing for community I suspect that there is an intelligence at play which has delayed the easy discovery of some group or place you can land out of its need for you to share these thoughts with others. Some people need to join communities, some need to start them. I suspect you might be a player in the second category.
*stands up clapping* what a powerful reflection Latham. I feel like I learned so much about you in this piece. You took us on a journey of transformation without confusing or overwhelming us. I think there is more to explore about the idea of honor, and I think you have a pretty interesting perspective on it. This piece definitely makes you think. Thank you for writing it!
Wow Latham, incredible essay. SO many emotions stirred up while I read this, it gave me chills (all in a good way). I love how you weaved Socrates’s story throughout your story. I’m really inspired and thankful/grateful to have been part of your creative process on this. I’ll be thinking about your question for a while. Thank you again for sharing your incredible story, and for your service <3
Latham. I know you weaved in Socrates here, but I was taken in by Wilfred Owen for the way you (and the poem) reminded me of the feelings I had when I read this at school. Those feelings and sensations in my body - the visceral sting of loss, regret, misguided ideals - sang out again, just as they did as I read your essay. It’s not often that I read something that connects viscerally. I’m glad you found your voice in this piece and you persevered with the edits. If anything I’m actually rather missing the opportunity to have been part of the creative process, to see it unfold, and to see your deepening the connection to yourself along the way.
A truly beautiful piece.
Thank you 🙏
Great stuff my man. You had me at BC
I echo everything others have already said here. As I mentioned to you, this is one of the most powerful things I've read in a long time. I'm going to be coming back to it more than once, because there's so much wisdom and beauty in here. Rick said it well - I think you may be in that second category.
As someone on a similar journey - trying to figure out what we're doing here, what constitutes a life well-lived, and by extension what is worth dying for - I'm deeply inspired by your lifelong curiosity, humility, and pursuit of meaning. It's hard to remain nihilistic when I read something like this.
Thank you, so much, for writing and sharing.
beautifully told at the perfect pace in a timeless lens
Astounding. There are too many highlights I want to point out, so instead I'll just agree that this is perhaps your best and most important piece yet. Honored to have read it.
As a side note, I get the sense that writing this was a lot like childbirth — you toil and fight with sweat and tears, give up, then do it all over and over again until you think you are literally on the edge of death, but then in an instant of release, it all makes sense and is all worth it. Bravo for your hard work!
This was a wonderful read, Latham, thank you so much for sharing your story and truth. A lot resonated, this line being a gem that hit very close to home: "I love sitting around our family table, laughing for hours at the kids’ jokes while our food gets cold, but I wonder if this is my answer or a distraction from my search." I remain inspired by you and your question.