As always with Plato, the nature of the people in the dialogue become a subtext for the topic at hand. In this case, there are shades of naming that seem the same but aren't (i.e., Socrates does not equal Socrates, there are two!) and two of the characters physically resemble each other, but with different names. The Stranger doesn't have a name at all and Theodorus is a wonderful foil. At a really, really simple level - just because someone has the title of leader, doesn't mean they are one... and even though they may say the "right" things, it doesn't mean anything will be accomplished. Conversely, a title-less person in the persona of stranger actually leads the discussion effectively and this layer is a paper in itself.
Remember that they are looking for the best kind of leader - through division.
It is a curious and sometimes cumbersome method of investigation... and becomes all the more interesting when they have a couple of false starts that don't bear philosophical fruit - so they start again.
They begin to investigate the notion of human activity and noble work. Seeking to identify a craft or artisan that would be the best picture of what the ideal leader should look like. Know what they come up with?
If you're still here, stay with me just a bit longer :)
That may seem odd to our modern ears, but it works. The primary task of the weaver is to combine the threads in perpendicular directions to create out of individual threads a cohesive and useful whole. The threads going one way are called the woof (the threads running across)... the other direction are called the warp (threads running the length). Put together they make cloth which at it's best is both beautiful and useful - so there you go.
Here we find a resurgence of a theme explored by Plato in the Republic, in the notion of the Philosopher King.
The idea is that the warp aspect is the ability of our leader to have wisdom, or know the truth and virtue that is good. The woof is the power to actually implement what is known. And only when they are put together do you have a true statesman. That rings true doesn't it? That knowledge without power is an interesting theory but is academically toothless to actually do any good. And power without wisdom and virtue leads to abuse quickly enough - examples of that are easy to find.
Yet when both are in play, we have the perfect blend of leadership. The one who can push us in directions we wouldn't have gone without their influence... that ultimately end up being good for us. Perfect wisdom + Perfect power and weaving them together to create a cloth of justice and goodness = Statesman. Wouldn't it be cool if we could somehow find that guy and put him in charge?
As an orthodox Christian, it occurs to me (like it did to Aquinas and fathers of our faith through the ages) that there does, in fact, exist someone who combines the best of both worlds for a method of ruling truly and effectively.
His name is Jesus.
So for a new year, here are three things to humbly consider as we start a new chapter in the action adventure book of love that we call our lives:
One: Jesus is a great leader. True power was woven together with true wisdom and goodness to become someone that is trustworthy as our Example. The love we see in the Son of God is not just a good idea, or a clever pie in the sky dream sequence. He is real and that is perhaps the best of things.
Two: We all have leaders big and small in our lives. From our boss, to Congress, to our President, to the CEO of our company if we have one... to the one coordinating our book club, etc... And we can inspire leaders to lead. Honor them and encourage them to be all they can be in wisdom and in authority. Pray for the people who are over us that they would serve the interests of our various and cobbled communities nobly and well. That they would find virtue and the courage to make a decision for the good - even if that decision might not poll well.
Three: We all have changes we want to make in life. Maybe we want to be healthier in this way or that. Maybe we are looking for an opportunity to grow in a particular way, to become better parents, spouses,employees or friends. Maybe we are at the cusp of a new thing and feel the heightened awareness that comes when a chapter is closing to give way to the new.
Look for wisdom. Find people who know more than you do and buy them a tasty beverage! Look for power and the ability to actually accomplish the good idea... take a real step to make the dream in your heart real. Don't be afraid to take some people with you, it will be a great ride.
Never doubt that a small group of committed people can step into courage and change the world.
It's the only thing that ever has.
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. ~Revelation 1:12-18