Author: ©2024 William Castano-Bedoya


Today I walk three miles, as usual. I head a few meters west and quickly turn south on Alhambra Circle. My goal is to skirt the University of Miami from the west and then enter the campus to breathe in that academic air that overwhelms and inspires me. I set out thinking about striking up a casual conversation with someone who happens to make eye contact with me, or with someone I approach with a casual comment.

Generally, when I play the clueless old man, young people help me because they can’t ignore the demands my white beard presents to them… “This old man is lost,” they might think. The truth is, today I set out to play with my imagination and ponder in other people a fluid relationship, discovering enriching human conditions. I often do this as an exercise to stimulate my creativity; after all, it’s part of what I usually do as a crazy writer.

I walk for about a mile and a half, at which point I complete half of my route. It’s there that I must enter the university via Stanford Drive, the main avenue. Passing the Lowe Art Museum, I turn left, ready to walk around Lake Osceola. From there, I see the Cobb Fountain; a splendid fountain that symbolizes the university’s gratitude to Charles Cobb for his leadership and contributions.

Reaching the labyrinth, a spot on the university grounds that I had identified on another walk, I sit down to seek a conversation with someone imaginary. My mind creates a character who approaches leisurely. Although I don’t have a reliable picture of how he looks, he was already predestined to meet me in person.

“Excuse me, sir… where is the Labyrinth located?” I ask, feigning spontaneity.

“You’re sitting in it,” he replies mockingly.

“Thank you, sir. You’re very kind,” I respond.

“Not at all. I’ve resided in this cloister for ages,” he says, smiling.

“Wow! What a privilege to converse with someone so rooted in history. I am William Castaño-Bedoya, a writer of literary fiction.”

“Nice to meet you, William. I am Plato, a thinker from ancient Greece.”

“If you don’t mind my curiosity, Plato, I’ve always wanted to know more about you. Humanity speaks of you with reverence, but your full name is rarely mentioned.”

“That’s understandable. In ancient Greece, we often used only a first name without a surname. My full name is simply Plato. But if you wish to add a surname, ‘Greek philosopher’ would suffice. After all, who needs a surname when their legacy is so distinctive?”

“You’re right, Plato! Your name has resonated through the ages and continues to inspire entire generations. It’s an honor to converse with you.”

Plato presented himself just as I had imagined, based on some indirect references and artistic representations that give me an approximate idea. A man of noble and dignified bearing, possessing an imposing and distinguished presence, walking like a statue come to life in our era, just as Pygmalion’s sculpture did. Plato, looking me in the eye, answering me mockingly, provided that realism that only imagination can assure.

“Dear Plato, could we talk for a few minutes? I have some doubts about humanity and its current state,” I asked.

“I have no rush, we could talk for an eternity. Let’s talk,” he replied, settling on the edge of the bricks.

“To start, how do you manage to look so fresh having been born 427 years before Christ?” I asked.

“Before Christ? I see you use the Gregorian calendar. I don’t usually measure my existence that way. Monotheism doesn’t convince me; it manipulates souls,” he said dismissively.

“I use the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C.”

“I understand. You just use a reference frame. But where do you leave the complete age of humanity?” he questioned, looking towards the Cobb Fountain.

We kept silent. Then I asked:

“How old should you be today? In what year would you be living without the current calendar?”

“The Greeks counted years by the Olympiads, every four years. 427 B.C. would be the second year of the 88th Olympiad. We also used the founding of Rome, in 753 B.C., so 427 B.C. would be the year 326 since the founding of Rome.”

“I see, you use your own calendar to explain your existence. What if you had been born in Egypt?”

“Everyone explains their existence according to their universe. The Egyptians used the ascension of the pharaohs. In 427 B.C. it was the 27th dynasty, during Persian domination. The Babylonians also used the ascension of kings. In 427 B.C., Babylon was under the Achaemenid Empire, during Artaxerxes I. A more universal calendar is the Holocene calendar, which adds 10,000 years to the Gregorian calendar. So, 427 B.C. would be the year 9574 of the Holocene era.”

“Existence is vast. According to the information, today I am 701 Olympiads old, 2776 years according to the Roman calendar, and 9574 years according to the Holocene calendar.” He told me, gesturing to indicate the absurdity of his calculations, and then we burst out laughing.

“Anyway, I get an idea of how old you are,” I expressed. “But, tell me… what was your life like when you started becoming aware?”

Plato clasped his hands and gently rubbed them, reminiscing, looking up at the sky; then, he fixed his gaze again on the Cobb Fountain and began to speak:

“I was born during the final period of the Peloponnesian War, a devastating conflict between Athens and Sparta. I experienced both the glory of democratic Athens under Pericles and its decline and defeat in the war, which deeply influenced my political and philosophical thinking. Believe it or not, I was a disciple of Socrates, and his ruthless execution had a significant impact on me. I traveled to places like Sicily, where I tried to put my political ideas into practice, though with little success. I ended up founding the Academy in Athens, one of the first educational institutions in the Western world, where I taught and wrote most of my works.”

“How wonderful, I know you are great. What you tell me is worthy of a genius in the history of our humanity. I’m intrigued that you mention Socrates; he is someone admired in the intellectual world, much like yourself.”

“What can I say, dear William? Humanity has been nourished by conflicts throughout its existence; we have been barbaric. Athens had gone through a period of political instability, including the defeat in the Peloponnesian War and the subsequent social crisis. In this context, the authorities sought scapegoats to blame for the city’s problems, and Socrates, with his critical approach and influence over many young Athenians, became a convenient target. Some of Socrates’ most notable followers, like Alcibiades and Critias, were controversial figures associated with anti-democratic movements. Alcibiades was an Athenian general who defected to Sparta, and Critias was one of the leaders of the Thirty Tyrants, an oligarchic regime imposed in Athens with Spartan support. Socrates’ association with these characters damaged his reputation and earned him enemies. This made him deserving of his trial and execution, and he was sentenced to death by a narrow margin of votes. Socrates sentenced himself to drink hemlock, a deadly poison. His execution has been seen throughout history as an example of the struggle between free thought and political censorship. His death solidified his status as one of the greatest philosophers of all time and a martyr for truth and justice. My admiration for him led me to create ‘The Dialogues,’ and I became his most famous disciple. These ‘Dialogues’ have been crucial for the transmission of his ideas and his defense at the trial.”

“Wow, what a long life you have lived, my friend Plato. I confess that I have read one of your creations, ‘The Dialogues,’ both the Early, Middle, and Late Dialogues. They are a great thesis,” I expressed in awe. “Which of your dialogues do you think might be having the most impact on today’s society?”

“Dear William, I think they all have an impact, but ‘The Republic’ is very influential, especially in the fields of politics and philosophy. In it, I explore concepts of justice, the nature of the soul, and the ideal organization of society, proposing a vision of a state governed by philosopher-kings. This dialogue addresses universal problems that are still relevant in modern society, such as the nature of power, education, and justice. However, each reader can find resonance in different dialogues depending on their interests and concerns.”

“Interesting. Every word you say makes me think and rethink life. Plato, what do you think of the current times, of science and technology?”

“Science and technology have advanced in ways I could never have imagined. Material and technological progress has brought immense benefits, but also ethical and philosophical challenges. I believe that although we have advanced in knowledge and technical capacity, moral dilemmas and the quest for the common good remain as pertinent as in my time. The balance between technological development and human well-being is a crucial issue that must be addressed with wisdom and philosophical reflection.”

“What you say is very true. Today, with all the technology and accumulated knowledge, we still face ethical and moral problems. Philosophy remains a necessary guide to navigate these complex times.”

“Exactly, William. Philosophy does not lose its relevance because it deals with the fundamental questions of human existence. Regardless of technological advances, philosophical reflection helps us understand our place in the world and make decisions that promote the well-being of humanity as a whole.”

“Thank you, Plato, for such an enriching conversation. You have given me much to think about during the rest of my walk.”

“You’re welcome, William. Time is relative; you will see when you meet Einstein on one of your walks. It has been a pleasure talking with you. Keep exploring and reflecting, because it is through the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom that we find our true purpose.”

I bid Plato farewell with a bow, recognizing the magnitude of his influence on my thinking and the history of philosophy. As I walk away from the Labyrinth, I realize that every step I take is not only a physical exercise but also a continuous quest for knowledge and wisdom.

William is a Colombian-American writer who captivates readers with his ability to depict both the unique experiences and universal struggles of humanity. Hailing from Colombia’s Coffee Axis, he was born in Armenia and spent his youth in Bogotá, where he studied Marketing and Advertising at Jorge Tadeo Lozano University. In the 1980s, he immigrated to the United States, where he naturalized as a U.S. citizen and held prominent roles as a creative and image leader for projects with major corporations. After a successful career in the marketing world, William decided to fully dedicate himself to his true passion: literature. He began writing at the turn of the century, but it was in 2018 when he made the decision to make writing his primary occupation. He currently resides in Coral Gables, Florida, where he finds inspiration for his works. William’s writing style is distinguished by its depth, humanity, and authenticity. Among his most notable works are ‘The Beggars of Mercury’s Light: We the Other People’, ‘The Galpon’, ‘Flowers for María Sucel’, ‘ Ludovico’, and ‘We’ll meet in Stockholm”.

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