We can begin with a simple premise: someone poised a question to a speaker regarding allegations of homophobia within Plato’s later work. The response was simple, Plato-of-the-Laws only suggests limiting homosexual/queer love (depending on how you interpret it) because it is so fantastic and immersive and profound and so on, that doing anything else can seem quite difficult after the fact. There are people who do nothing but queer things, because indeed queer things are wonderful, but as a typical Athenian, Plato is found to ask the question of whether there is a higher pursuit. Another example is Socrates who supposedly joked that he could not focus on philosophy in Sicily due to always ending up in bed with a They.
Plato is held as a root of philosophy, with the western philosophical canon suggesting that all philosophy is rooted in response to Plato, who seemed to ask certain fundamental questions which we never went beyond (the beauty of The One in itself and so on). The Theys, the Queers, the Trans, the Those-who-cannot-be-categorized, or the Those-who-are-beyond-genre(and-therefore-beyond-being-marketable), can surprisingly find solace in Plato because it pre-exists the framework that creates the tensions we experience. It sounds quite nice, for a They to exist 4000 years ago, before Christ, and to be in Athens at the birth of democracy, pursuing philosophy and discourse offset with wine and queer sex. Indeed, we might now call such an image of symposia and intoxication as “Dionysian”, or perhaps Hedonistic, but Plato was writing before the Church decreed that the pursuit of pleasure, philosophy and democracy was lacking in piety, so it cannot be understood that, at the time of writing, there was ever some sense of immortality or guilt associated with pleasure. Christ, or the immortal, posthumous, ideologically-idealised Image of Christ, in many ways, is the injection of guilt into all domains of human psychology, and therefore when one imagines Plato being unable to focus on philosophy due to being unable to stop staring at the allure of some Sicilian lover, one must remember that Plato would have felt no guilt, no shame, and perhaps that is truly what “queer sex” is to Plato, and why Plato wrote so highly of queer/homosexual love; some sort of unrepressed love.
So Plato becomes a lens into a world that was not without oppression, that was not without suffering, but was perhaps without so many barricades blocking the flow of love and pleasure. After all, many a queer or trans life is ruined by the consequences of installing blockades that interfere with the flow of love, as queer and trans people are so often those who simply refuse to practice denial and refuse to repress themselves by conforming to a monotype. The philosophy of Plato and the image of Athens that comes with it can seem like a utopia for the genderqueer or homosexual They.
We are left with a trace of an Athens where the theys, dolls and femboys are depicted like sirens, calling down to you from their windows as you walk the streets, beckoning you to take a rest, to frolic with them. This is one point of relation that needs emphasising: the Theys are without Christ and without Capital. The Theys have no need for Christ or Capital, no need for kingdom or ideology to bind and control their desires, the embodied and gushing They does not perceive themselves or experience themselves as fractured, repressed, or as containing shards of glass that make every movement miserable, they can simply be as they are, without any tensions or compulsions. Perhaps this is what Plato saw in their eyes, and why he attributes so much of his philosophy, not to seeing “something in a dream”, but seeing some profound truth in the eyes of their queer lover.
I want to go back to an idea that I have touched on before regarding “Zen and the art of Bimbo”, of the empty mind not reflecting an absence of knowledge, but rather reflecting an absence of limitations in the “Schizoanalytical” sense. It is uncanny that Hegel’s dialectical slave is figured as the one who grows, and who never stops growing, until the slave has lived a thousand lives where their master lives one. In some sense, I find something of an overlap here between Plato, Zen and Hegel - the one who is pushed down is the one who will learn, and the one who can teach is the one who learned, there is nothing to learn from a master except what has been taught to him by observing the slaves. Only through observing the Zen in the eyes of the Sicilian siren-twink, a Zen that has been earned through self-practicing submission (not dominion), can a master hope to learn anything.
If one takes a look at Zen, the empty mind is not defined, as we say, by absence of knowledge, for it cannot be said that we look up Zen masters as being without knowledge, yet only an empty mind can truly receive a lesson, only an empty mind has the space for the novel to enter, to take off its shoes, and spend enough time in the space to leave traces. After all, you can see knowledge as an act of submission, of inviting something in, as opposed to an act of claiming or dominion - the animal that you capture and cage will teach you only of more suffering, the animal that invites itself in to sleep on your couch can teach you about the opposite of suffering - Zen. Zen as an antidote to suffering is not always best seen as life-long meditation, but it should be seen as frolicking in the fields without a task, the kind of sensual and intimate experience that people reserve for acid trips, of being amazed by grass or by the colour of the sky, or by the love one feels or of the dream of liberty and so on. This is the Zen of the Theys, because in the nightmare of capitalist realism, the most important antidote is to remember what it means to be without the pressures that make us act so individualistically and neurotically. There was likely a time when our bodies were not divided and split, and our unrepressed existence was not disrupted in a way that shatters our inner peace.
This brings us back to why Plato has risen again within the community, and one of my favourite philosophers, who I will keep anonymous for their own privacy, wrote something along the lines of: The Theys just want to frolic, but times are hard, and the Theys have been born into bodies that fall under the jurisdiction of a board of ideological governors who disturb and interrupt their ability to be at peace with themselves. In forcing the Theys to make distinctions that there is no need for, schisms appear in the mind, in creating a social and political landscape that seeks to first create, then disrupt and coerce desires, the Theys have been prevented from frolicking.
In many ways, Plato can be seen to struggle with the idea that philosophy and poetry can seem, to the They (to his Lovers), as the foolish games of Men. The Theys have inverted the modern cynical or sexist stereotype, where the man talking of philosophy is framed like a “bimbo talking passionately about their manicure” - after all, that which makes the They so profound to Plato is the Zen in their eyes: yes honey, everyone was very impressed by your monologue, now are you coming to bed or not?
Yet, while in such times the They will roll their eyes at theory and philosophy, for thousands of years the Theys have been afflicted with a curse: the Theys taught Plato to “know th[e]yself”, the Theys understand themselves deeply, so the Theys feel every incision that biopolitical regimes make - the mess that religion and capital has made of gender and sexuality, and the expectation for a They to conform to one of two options, forces a They into a mode of being that is full of all the consequences that come with not knowing thyself. We know what is going on here, but the interface forces us to act nonetheless, forcing us to act in a way that we do not agree with - it brings to mind this idea of Spinozist ethics, it brings to mind the Image of an eternal suffering caused by being forced to walk down a path that we know is misguided, and leading to more suffering - the Theys do not just suffer the horrors of the wrong path, they suffer knowing it is the wrong path, and have no misguided hope that the pain will lead to salvation. We know this path is a waste of time but are forced to walk it nonetheless, while the Men who used to admit to their foolishness in hushed whispers in the ears of their Sicilian lover, now enslave the world in the snares of whatever absurd nonsense it was that they used to forget post-ejaculation.
In this context, the Theys have been forced to not frolic, and with eyes glowing red, they devour the history of the writing of Men and master it, after all it is like the fantasy world-building of a child - in a world where children are in control, the mother is forced to master the knowledge of some obscure japanese cartoon in order to try to reason with the child, to lull the child to calm down. The Theys find themselves picking up the pursuit of democracy and philosophy to bring back the equilibrium that would resolve the inner tensions and heal the incisions within their own minds, so they can once again know thyself and return to being (as an unrestricted flow).
Perhaps it is a strange story, but the Theys have been forced into becoming-plato-of-the-laws, the version of Plato who has spent decades drinking from the tap of knowledge and admit that, while ketamine, queer sex and frolicking in the fields is obviously the highest pursuit of any Garden of Eden, right now we may have to stop trying to frolic for just long enough to get on top of a situation that we usually prefer to be on the bottom of.
At any rate, one message that is embedded within this is that it is unequivocally better to reframe and guide and channel our passions and desires as “too good to the point of being distracting”, rather than as “sinful and in need of correcting”. So in that sense we can return to knowing thyself by finding ourselves in our past lover, Plato-of-the-laws, and remembering the truth of Athens, the truth of fluidity and the truth of Zen in the eyes of the Twink, and to remember above all that the incisions and schisms that prevent our practices of Zen are not consequential of a failure to correctly understand thyself, but are implanted within us as a punishment for knowing thyself too much. Whatever collage of ideas and values and intersections you understand yourself to be, it is all valid, you can relate to different parts of gender and sexuality as it is all quite nebulous and diverse, and in the human repeating itself over and over, infinite differences emerge of which none are higher than others. We may now, for now, be roleplaying an 80-year old Plato, but do not forget those summers of love in Sicily, do not let Capital divide your heart; know th(e)yself as you have always known deep down.