Plato’s mentor was Socrates. Plato thought Socrates was the wisest person of this time and he passionately desired to learn all of Socrates’ wisdom.
Legend has it that one day Socrates and Plato were walking down the beach deep in conversation. At one point, Socrates said to Plato, “Walk with me into the ocean.” They turned and walked into the sea together.
Now, in your imagination, picture that happening: Student and teacher, two of the greatest philosophers of history, striding into the surf side by side.
The water started out around their ankles, then rose up to their knees. As the water got higher Plato wondered, “What is the lesson my master is trying to teach me?”
When the water was about shoulder height, Socrates abruptly grabbed Plato’s head and pushed him down under the water. As Plato was held down, he undoubtedly wondered again what this lesson was all about.
After a time, when Plato ran out of air, he began to struggle to get his head above water. He punched and kicked and grabbed to get free, but Socrates was a strong man and held him down. Finally, Plato blacked out due to lack of oxygen. Socrates pulled him ashore and resuscitated him.
When Plato regained consciousness, he angrily accused Socrates of trying to drown him. Socrates matter-of factly explained, “If that had been my intention, I would not have pulled you ashore.”
“Then why did you do that?” Plato demanded.
Socrates calmly replied, “When you desire my knowledge like you desired that breath of air, then you shall have it.”
So many people desire things, but they want them only at an intellectual level. They wish for a wildly romantic long lasting relationship, for financial independence, for fame, or to make a difference in other people’s lives, but for most people, they do not desire it like Plato wanted that breath of air.