“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Socrates spoke those words during his trial for heresy. He was charged with encouraging his students to question and challenge the accepted beliefs of the time, and to think for themselves.
As punishment, he was sentenced to death; however Socrates was given the choice of life in prison/exile, and could have avoided death, but he believed that these alternatives would rob him of the only thing that gave his life meaning: examining his life and the world around him, and developing ways he could improve on both. In his view, without his “examined life” there was no point in living. So of course, his Athenian persecutors were left with no choice but to sentence him to death.
I don't know if my convictions are that strong - I'd certainly like to think so, but facing death has a way of rapidly encouraging flexibility. But thankfully, I live in a time and place that doesn't require that I must choose between an examined life or death... or do I? Death doesn't have to be literal.
No matter... I can undoubtedly say that mine is a life constantly under a microscope!
Here's a documentary I just came across while looking for something worthwhile to occupy some of my free time with this weekend. It's called, naturally, Examined Life. The 88-minute film is by Astra Taylor, a writer, filmmaker and director who produces short-form documentaries for The Nation ezine.
Per the IFC Center website, where the film is currently screening, Examined Life, "takes philosophy out of the classroom and into the street, as filmmaker Astra Taylor accompanies a veritable who's who of contemporary thought on a series of brief, invigorating journeys."
Joining her for the ride are Cornel West, Kwame Anthony Appiah (Ghanaian philosopher and novelist), Slavoj Zizek (self-proclaimed Marxist, sociologist, philosopher), and several others.
IFC calls it "a celebration of intellectual discourse and its power to transform our understanding of the world and our place in it."
The subject matter is compelling enough to me; and with contributions from the likes of Cornel West, Kwame Anthony Appiah and Slavoj Zizek, count me in! I'll see it this weekend, undoubtedly.
Reading the above synopsis and watching the below trailer, I'm instantly reminded of Richard Linklater's Waking Life - minus the rotoscoping :o):