Published in May 2020, Eric Weiner’s “The Socrates Express” is an adventurous travelogue and intricate guide to using ancient philosophy to better our lives. The book notes, “All philosophers, like all teenagers, are misunderstood.”
Weiner divulges in his urge to understand the greatest thinkers of history and what exactly we can learn from them. He is delighted to find that ancient philosophers and their words can find value in our lives, in the morning and night, in failure and success, in grief and joy.
Weiner travels by train, which he labels “the most thoughtful mode of transport” to the environments in which philosophers like Socrates, Rousseau and Confucius, to name a few, made their greatest philosophical discoveries about life. He takes the reader along with him, from sipping tea in Athens, Greece to meaningful walks through the city of Paris, France.
Weiner begins his adventure of finding philosophical happiness at dawn, in which philosophers like Marcus Aurelius teaches as being an opening scene, powerful and full of hope.
“If you don’t like your life, chances are you don’t like your mornings,” Weiner writes, emphasizing the role of our mornings as a ritual transition in our lives.
He encourages us to “live your life as if it repeats endlessly. See what happens.”
Weiner addresses the illustrations of “happiness” in today’s culture that is seen as money, fame, power and more, all of which are simply worldly acquisitions that do not exist internally. Philosophy encourages us to look inward.
Weiner reveals: “If I’m honest with myself, I recognize that what I crave most is not fame or wealth but peace of mind. The pure pleasure of existing.”
As we navigate ourselves through life it is easy to get caught up in where we are going. Weiner finds that sometimes we sabotage our presence in the now by identifying our destination before we begin our journey.
“Sometimes you don’t know where you are going until you start moving. So move,” Weiner writes.
Why not take advice on leading a meaningful life from people who spent their whole lives asking life’s most vital questions, and searching for answers? In my opinion, “The Socrates Express” can make philosophers of us all.
In doing so, we can see the world from different perspectives, find hidden beauty and a new way of being that will result in true happiness. Weiner emphasizes that the best things come to us when we are not looking for them.
“Happiness is a by-product, never an objective. It’s an unexpected windfall from a life lived well,” Weiner writes.
Weiner travels to discover how he can wonder like Socrates, see like Thoreau, and enjoy like Epicururus. He finds that the only way to know the world is to know ourselves. Who we are is what we surround ourselves with, and it is our choice.
“The man who for the first time picks a small flower so that he can have it near him while he works has taken a step toward joy in his life,” Weiner writes. “Our lives are nothing more, or less, than the sum of a million tiny joys.”