The Death of Socrates

7:00 AM


Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Socrates, 1787
By LIBBY ROHR

Dear dummy who wishes to be refered to as the artist who wishes to be refered to as Doctor,

Welcome to the wonderful, if slightly pretentious, world of Art History. This seems like one of those things you would vehemently deny enjoying sheerly because of your own preconceived notions, however I suggest you give it a chance. If you are still unwilling to give Art History a try, at least open yourself to this painting. I have a feeling you'll enjoy it.

Ian, meet Jaques-Louis David, a French Neoclassicist painter who did work in a time of near global revolution. Here we see Socrates, front and center, choosing to drink hemlock to end his life rather than to stop speaking the truths he believed in. He was convicted, technically, of corrupting youth, and yet in this painting he wears white, symbolizing purity. I take it as the purity and clarity that comes with knowledge and pursuit of truth. In his dark, gray cell, a spotlight seems to come from nowhere and illuminate his form. On all sides of him, his followers are openly weeping, and yet with his last breaths, the great philosopher is still speaking with conviction, as evidenced by that definitive skyward gesture as he reaches for the cup of hemlock. While those closest to this great man are reduced to their worst in this time of trial, Socrates is stronger than ever and positively resolute.

I picked The Death of Socrates because this is how I see you. Living with a life of philosophical pursuits, principle, and conviction, without compromise. You ask all the right questions at the right times. You are ridiculously strong. You have more mental, emotional, and physical endurance than any other human being I know. You say what needs to be said, not what is most appropriate or acceptable. You are painfully stubborn. You are a devil's advocate. You think too much (but then again so do I). You have the temperament of a grumpy old man. In all of these ways, you are like this unyielding and seriously ripped Socrates here. However, the most apt comparison between the two of you is that, of all the people I am close to, you are the one who would be most willing to lay down his life for the things he cares about. This Socrates is a reflection of the values I see in you, and a reflection of your role in my life.

You're strong, loyal, trustworthy, exceptionally intelligent, snarky, and sincere. Thank you for everything. Thank you for our long talks throughout the years. Thank you for always being up for a trip to Penn Station and a car ride. Thank you for the endless showings of our favorite movies. Thank you for being so protective of me. Thank you for the philosophy over brunch. Thank you for helping me to be fearless. Thank you for showing up when I need you and staying at my house later than you should just because you care. I hope you know that it never goes unnoticed. The sheer number of times you've changed my point of view, given me the clarity I needed, and talked me down from a freak out is positively astounding. Your grip of the human mind and logic are phenomenal and the effect of your various advices has been invaluable through the years.

We're crazy people, I get that. But no mater what, I know you're a solid base to come back to, and I appreciate that to no end. Thank you for being my shoulder to cry on, my greatest confidant, my home away from home, my take-out food companion, the Sargent Nicholas Angel to my Danny Butterman, my own real-life Rick Ford, and my brother. Thank you so much for that.

Wherever we go next year, I'm not worried. Let's be real here. We've been through a lot together these past seven-ish years. Too much to lay down here. It's been a veritable roller coaster ride of a friendship, but no matter what, I know you'll always be there for me. You are my family and you, arguably, know me better than anyone else in the world and I'd like to think I know you pretty well too. Through all the good and the bad of it, befriending you and Sam has been one of the better choices I made in my life. I don't know how I got so lucky.

Happy Holidays,
Libbuhtayy

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