Yesterday I asked my ESL class this:
‘What’s your dream?’
And one of my Saudi Arabian students spoke up. He had every right to come up with something like: to be famous, rich, successful, whatever (and the question was ‘dreams’, not ‘goals’, so you’d expect him to say something even loftier or harder to attain than just a goal.)
So what’d he reply with?
‘To be a good person.’
Something that not only is a positive effect on him and everyone in his life or comes across, but it’s also something you have full control over. It’s not reliant on the approval, judgement, praise or purchasing of others. And as opposed to those other dreams, no one, not one single person on this bigass planet can stop you from being a good person.
..You are mistaken my friend if you think that a man who is worth anything ought to spend his time weighing up the prospects of life and death. He has only one thing to consdier when performing any action: that is, whether he is acting rightly or wrongly, like a good man or a bad one. (From Plato)
– From Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Sidenote: I was teaching nouns and their direct opposites, and at one point we got to the noun ‘existence’. And when I asked the class what’s the opposite of it, one of my other Saudi students pointed out that there is no opposite. And he’s right on.
If the opposite of death is birth, then what’s the opposite of existing? Dying? I don’t think so. Because how can you die without existing? So then the opposite of ‘existence’ is surely nothing. If something exists, then the opposite of that would be something that doesn’t exist. So in other words, you can’t actually define or describe something that doesn’t exist or never did.
That was some Socratic examination shit right there, and I wanted to have a hours-long back and forth about it, a la Socrates and whichever poor bloke he accosted to blast with 684 billion questions in any of Plato’s dialogues about him. But unfortunately, I teach English, and the rest of the class were like ‘What the fuck does this have to do with nouns?’, so I had to drop it and move on.