When I was a freshman at the University of Minnesota many years ago, I took a class on Greek and Roman mythology to satisfy one of my history requirements. I was very interested in the course at the time and had a huge crush on the TA who was a rugged, punk, intellectual type that was way too interested in his female students. Anyway, I don’t use what I learned in that class on a regular basis, but I remember the material surprisingly well. One thing in particular that I often find myself thinking about is an essay written by Plato, outlining his idea of what happens to us before we are born. Plato thought that all the unborn souls live in some other place (I’ll call it Heaven even though I don’t think he did) waiting to be born. They decide on the human form they will take by being shown a series of images of lives they can lead from which they choose the life they like best. The souls are only shown a glimpse of these lives so they are not aware of the hardships that inevitably accompany each life. When they catch a glimpse of who they want to be, they pick that life and are born into it.
As a freshman in college I initially underestimated Plato’s theory. I thought, “Okay, but what about people that are disfigured? Mentally challenged? All-around miserable? Isn’t it an affront to them to presume their souls chose this life?” The beauty of the theory is that there are fleeting moments either in the past or in the future where their souls are happy, at peace, in a life someone might choose if only for a moment. I am not religious. I can’t even really pretend to be very spiritual as I have no answers to why we are greater than the sum of our parts. But for some reason, I really like Plato’s theory. And I still think about it a lot.
The other night I was driving home from a satisfying day at work. I had the windows down, letting the warm, November breeze of Florida blow through my hair. To my left the sun was setting causing streaks of pink and purple to ribbon through the sky. I was excited to go home and see the love of my life, and our little cat family in our quaint apartment. It’s moments like this I think of Plato’s essay and think, “this must have been what I saw when I was still in Heaven.”
And to those of you who want to put something clever in the comments: No, I am not high. Just happy.