Chapter 23: Ten Non-Commandments
Al-Hillaj said, “Yes, because the people who are throwing stones don’t know me. And the person who has thrown the roseflower knows me, knows my truth. But he is a coward, and I am ashamed that I have been a student of this man. Stones don’t matter. But this roseflower has hit me hard.”
Compromise simply means you are on uncertain ground. Rather than compromising, find grounding, roots, individuality. Find a sincerity of feeling, the support of your heart. Then whatever the consequence, it does not matter. The man who knows, knows perfectly well that no harm is possible. You can kill him, but you cannot harm him. And the man who does not know is always trembling, always worried. In that worrying and trembling, that anguish, he goes on compromising with everybody - just to be safe, not to be harmed.
But what are you trying to save? You don’t have anything to save. Those who have something to save don’t compromise.
A man like Socrates was given an opportunity by the judges, that if he leaves Athens. He can live outside of Athens and in this way he can avoid the death penalty. Anybody would suggest that “This is a simple compromise, you can just live outside the boundary lines of Athens” - because in those days in Greece there were only city-states; every city was a state. Just outside the boundary you were outside the state. He could have lived almost in the suburbs. But men like Socrates are impossible.
He said, “I would rather die than escape. And anyway, I am old. How long am I going to live? And if the most cultured city of these days cannot tolerate me, who is going to tolerate me? It is better to die in Athens than anywhere else - at least I have the consolation that I am being killed by the most cultured people.”
The judges were really trying hard somehow to save him, because he had not committed any crime. It was just that the mob wanted him to be killed - he was corrupting the youth. Now, anybody who brings new thoughts to the world can be blamed because he is corrupting the youth - because he is bound to be against the old ideas, he is bound to fight against the old. You can call it corruption: “He is corrupting our tradition, our religion, our culture.”
The judges said, “We have another suggestion: you can live in Athens, but stop talking about truth.”
Socrates said, “You are asking me to do the impossible. I will speak about truth and truth alone until my last breath. Do you want me to start speaking lies? Do you want me not to speak at all? - that too is a lie, because I know the truth and I am not speaking it, and the lie is spreading in people’s minds. No, I will be here, and I will speak the truth. It is up to you - you can kill me - but no compromise on any ground.”