If there anyone I envy,
it’s old Diogenes, dog that he was
and I more a cat.
But… Oh to be in a world
where such naturalness
I hope we have a few sparks in common.
Like that honest man, I am a citizen
of nowhere in particular.
Which polis? “Cosmopolis,” says he,
coining a word we still employ,
but with less force than he:
citizen of the world, no fear, no favour.
You can’t get away with it these days.
He was in search of true morality.
Today he’d be locked up
as a danger to common hypocrisy.
Now you can only be a Diogenes
on the inside or “inside” is where you’ll soon end up.
They called him cynic - the dog -
because he wanked and shat in public.
Well, what’s immoral about natural functions?
he would ask, and nobody had
a word to say, but they all felt
uncomfortable. Famously, he met
Alexander who came to the entrance
of the earthen vase in which the cynic lived.
The dog realised something was afoot
when the imposing presence appeared
quite filling the mouth of the big jar.
- “I am Alexander, king of the world,
and you?” - “I am Diogenes the dog”,
he replied, in a tone of complete
equality. “May I grant you a favour? Ask,
anything you wish?” deigned the king.
Think on it, what would you say?
“There is one thing you could do for me,”
says the lounging philosopher.
“Speak and it is yours.”
Alexander was enjoying the game.
“Yes, your shadow is blocking the sun,
you could stand a bit to the side
so I can enjoy its warmth again.”
Such was the most philosophical
moment in history, more worthy of pondering
than all the abstractions of Paris.
That we would not tolerate him today.
is the measure of our decline.
He lived in a pot and was free,
we in centrally heated cages
inside and out,
even our minds fenced and policed
so effectively we mostly do not even notice.
What is the most precious thing?
they asked him - “To be able to speak freely,”
he replied. Nowadays even our so-called free press
has become merely
another instrument to keep us in line.
Yes, he is what’s missing from our world
and not likely to come again
unless we are ever forced to give up
nine tenths of what we think
essential to modern life.
He was a tough one,
but he had the better part.