I had a brilliant Saturday morning breakfast with Anaxagoras of Clazomenae.
No, this ancient Greek is not a neighbor. While savoring my green smoothie, I was deeply immersed in conversation with a book of his writings and speeches from 480 BC.
There are so many things I love about the ancient Greeks. One of them is that an ordinary person could become a philosopher, provided he had a new and interesting view of the world. Along with that great opportunity, 500 BC was a time when philosophy was considered a respected and important profession.
Today if you study philosophy (does anyone even study philosophy today?) you’re mainly reading about others people’s philosophies, most of them long dead.
Back then you were exposed to many emerging philosophies. You could study directly in person with the philosopher, walking together around a lovely scented tree-filled grove. But even more importantly, you were encouraged to create a new philosophy. I love that. It was an exciting time for philosophy.
What’s notable for me about Anaxagoras is that he was the first recorded philosopher to state that a human being has a mind. He called it Nous.
Anaxagoras saw the mind as not having a material substance. He saw it as separate from the physical universe and believed it was senior to, and the power behind, everything in the physical universe. He believed that our Nous controlled the cosmos.
Anaxagoras was one of the first to make a study of thought, of mind over matter. To me, such a vital subject.
There’s a world of difference between studying the mind and studying the brain.
Today scientists are uncomfortable studying anything they can’t dissect with laboratory instruments or plug into a machine, so they are obsessed with the brain.
Not so back then. Back then they were discussing and studying things that I personally find more intriguing, like awareness.
For me it’s the things you can’t see that are the most compelling, the most worthy of study. Like love, hope, courage, friendship, intellect, playfulness, creation of beauty, the desire to reach out, affection, kindness, understanding, the human spirit.
Anaxagoras taught Socrates’ teacher, he preceded Plato and Aristotle and influenced all of them. He was a very close friend of Pericles, the architect of Athens’ Golden Age and the greatest leader the ancient Greeks ever had. He hung out with the best.
And today we had a sunny breakfast together in the Montclair hills of Oakland California, feasting on a deep discussion of the human mind and spirit and their relationship to the cosmos. A most fascinating breakfast companion.
Wishing you an abundance of all those good things we can’t see but do deeply experience, especially happiness.