If somehow Socrates were restored to life for just one day, it could be one of the worst of all Greek tragedies. Optimists, however, might believe his visit could nudge us toward a new day of reason.
I dunno. Whichever, he’d likely spend much of the day sputtering, “I did NOT say that!” Much of his work has been plagiarized, purloined or pilfered during the 2,500 years since he pondered and proclaimed in the then-known world.
No doubt, he and his philosopher buddies would be overwhelmed by the volume of thoughtless and frivolous comments blasting their eardrums and eyeballs all the day long. Before sunset, they’d hurl their stylus and shred their papyrus, praying for return to his “Before Christ” years ASAP. There, they’d renew vows of thinking before speaking.
They would not cotton to our world’s slipshod ways. Bewildered, they’d resort to head-scratching about audio-visual accounts beginning with words like “allegedly” and/or “informed sources,” and particularly in over-used references to “breaking news.”
In their day, Socrates and his cohorts took whatever time necessary to put words together properly before turnin’ ’em loose.
“Everyone for himself” seems to be the script now for the six billion plus earthlings in an expanded world far different than the one the Greek philosophers knew.
Reckon what chance we’d have today of being quoted 25 months from now, much less 2,500 years? And the same goes for misquotes. Take the sports world, for example, and baseball in particular. For an even sharper focus, consider a couple of New Yorkers — Casey Stengel, the late manager of the New York Yankees who closed out as skipper of the New York Mets and his language-bungling buddy, colorful Yankees catcher Yogi Berra.
The latter, closing in on age 90 and a participant in 14 World Series championships, was also credited with brain-twisting observations — much in the same manner as Stengel.
Just a half-century later, there already are “mishmashes” of quotes attributed to Stengel that really were Berra’s — and vice versa. (And some of ’em may have been Dizzy Dean’s.)
No doubt, some stories meant to be taken seriously have been reduced to humor in translation.
There’s proof that when the duo drifted too far into “foul” territory, at least one authority figure, late Commissioner Ford Frick, took umbrage. He was known for levying fines for transgressions that might be found laughable today.
In the “times they are a’changin’” department, 50 years ago, Frick slapped a $500 fine on Stengel.
The “old perfesser’s” error? No, it wasn’t for his Mets’ miserable 40-120 1962 won-loss record.
The commissioner took a dim view of Stengel appearing in a beer ad wearing a major league uniform.
I learned of this fact recently on the same day officials at Southern Methodist University announced they’re considering beer concession sales in the stands at athletic events, perhaps as soon as January. Never mind SMU’s president is on record opposing such action. (The University of Houston is the only Texas higher education institution authorizing sales.)
A couple of days later, similar statements were issued at the University of North Texas and the University of Texas. They say “not us,” at Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor. It’s a safe bet that what is really meant — in some cases, anyway — is “not yet.”
Uncle Mort, my 101-year-old kin in the thicket, usually sticks to minor issues. Right now, he cites fans’ growing howls about Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
“Folks are screaming louder every week,” Mort claims, “but I’m pretty sure the fans supporting him are hoarser than his critics — at least for now.” He says he’s starting a petition of support by Romo backers. “May the hoarse be with you,” it begins. ’Course, if Romo stumbles, the petition won’t mean a thing. Uncle Mort often uses disappearing ink.
I close this piece with “breaking news” from an informed source who alleges this quote to have been first uttered by Socrates himself, circa 425 BC, give or take a decade or so: “Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food and tyrannize teachers.” Clearly, what goes around, comes around, and, unfortunately, often stays around. In many ways, there’s really nothing much new under the sun.
Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web: email@example.com. Twitter: @donnewbury