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.
I’m so grateful you sent a “rerun” reminder of posts like this. This one unlocked something for me. As an aside, thank you so very much for your service. Whatever was stripped away there, I do truly hope you’ve been adding back over time.
Awesome. Fantastic writing and stellar argument: I love it. (This is Michael btw from the zoom chat the other day.) I relate SO much to everything you said. The counter-culture aspect; the diving into A Cause; the loss of innocence and purpose; the new search for A Path and The Truth. I had a very similar trajectory, though with punk rock, hitchhiking and alcoholism versus war. But I think we ended up in parallel places. I love the comparison between your life arc and Socrates. It also reminds me of my former neo-Nazi skinhead memoir client: Good kid who got mixed up in the wrong crowd and did a lot of terrible stuff...but then changed his life dramatically and has been an anti-hate activist for the past 25 years. His thing was all about finding his deeper meaning/purpose.
Anyway. Your story is powerful my man. I await the memoir.
I dig your stack--the mission, description, bio, etc. Solid.
‘Sincere American Writing’
You say Socrates and I say soccer tees give expression to most people. For your story does ring the bell for many of us on our journey to death. I personally would suggest truth does give one, “The Moral High Ground” and to lose that will destroy Family, Community and Nations. I very much enjoyed your essay.
This is a wonderfully honest and vulnerable piece. It’s beautifully written, incredibly inspirational, and best of all it invites us to ask ourselves an important question. Thank you
P.S - Socrates has been a guiding light in my life also.
Dude, what the hell? I thought I had read this already and somehow missed it. This is fantastic. This was an especially relevant paragraph for me:
“It certainly hasn’t been easy. Jealousy rips me off the path. Friends get promotions, funding, and followers, yet I’m still unsure what I am. 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 can’t filter everything through the lens of “would I die for this?” It’s too heavy — paralyzing even. Would I die for ice cream on a hot day? No. Is it worth stealing licks of my daughter’s vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles in the waffle cone as big as her head? Hell yes.”
I find this question so intimidating. Like, my family, sure. After that it’s a lot of big what ifs. Definitely worth thinking about a little more deeply.
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.
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!
beautifully told at the perfect pace in a timeless lens
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.
Great stuff my man. You had me at BC
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 🙏
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
*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!
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.
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."
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...