As described in my previous blog, I suffered a knee injury that is keeping me from running. Fortunately, I can still move enough to get from classroom to classroom. While my classes are not quite on opposite ends of the campus, they are quite a distance and many steps (indoors and outdoors) lie between them. In my current disabled state, it takes me 20 minutes to make the journey across campus (compared to 5 minutes). I’ve only vaguely thought about handicap access in the past; but now I realize that the campus is a bit of a nightmare to anyone lacking full mobility.
When my students saw me hobbling about on crutches, I was often asked if philosophy was any help. Some students asked this jokingly-there view of philosophy had been made clear during the semester: philosophy just takes people round in circles and doesn’t really do anything. Others asked with some seriousness, curious as to what I would have to say.
While some might say that all the philosophy in the world is helpless against a toothache (or knee injury), my experience is that philosophy does help.
Obviously, just reading some philosophy is not a cure and simply trying to find solace in the words of philosophy at this point would not work (as Aristotle would no doubt argue). But, I found that my study of the stoics and Plato have helped shape my character over the years. Or perhaps they merely give me words to express what my athletic training has given me.
Coincidentally, I’ll be teaching Plato’s view of censorship soon and, as I reviewed my notes, I saw a most appropriate passage:
“The law would say that to be patient under suffering is best, and that we should not give way to impatience, as there is no knowing whether such things are good or evil; and nothing is gained by impatience; also, because no human thing is of serious importance, and grief stands in the way of that which at the moment is most required.
What is most required? he asked. That we should take counsel about what has happened, and when the dice have been thrown order our affairs in the way which reason deems best; not, like children who have had a fall, keeping hold of the part struck and wasting time in setting up a howl, but always accustoming the soul forthwith to apply a remedy, raising up that which is sickly and fallen, banishing the cry of sorrow by the healing art.”
I’m guessing that Plato (a wrestler) probably had his share of injuries, too. In any case, it is excellent advice and I have been following it.