On another occasion he found that two brothers, Chaerophon and Chaerecrates, whom he knew well, were quarrelling. On seeing the latter, he cried, “Surely, Chaerecrates, you are not one of those who hold that there is more value in goods and chattels than in a brother, when they are senseless but he is sensible; they are helpless but he is helpful; when, moreover, you have many goods, but only one brother.
It is strange too that a man should think he loses by his brothers because he cannot have their possessions as well as his own, and yet should not think that he loses by his fellow-citizens because their possessions are not his; and whereas in this case men can reflect that it is better to belong to a community, secure in the possession of a sufficiency, than to dwell in solitude with a precarious hold on all the property of their fellow-citizens, they fail to see that the same principle applies to brothers.
Again, those who have the means by servants to relieve them of work, and make friends because they feel the need of help; but they care nothing for their brothers, as though friendship can exist between fellow-citizens, but not between brothers!
Yet common parentage and common upbringing are strong ties of affection,1
for even brute beasts reared together feel a natural yearning for one another. Besides, our fellow-men respect those of us who have brothers more than those who have none, and are less ready to quarrel with them.”
“If only the difference between us were a slight one, Socrates
,” replied Chaerecrates, “it might perhaps be my duty to put up with my brother and not allow trifles to separate us. For a brother who behaves like a brother is, as you say, a blessing; but if his conduct is nothing like that, and is, in fact, just the opposite of what it should be, what is the use of attempting impossibilities?”
“Does everyone find Chaerophon as disagreeable as you do, Chaerecrates, or do some people think him very pleasant?”
,” replied he, “this is precisely my reason for hating him: he is pleasant enough to other people, but whenever he is near me, he invariably says and does more to hurt than to help me.”
“Well now,” said Socrates
, “if you try to manage a horse without knowing the right way, he hurts you. Is it so with a brother? Does he hurt if you try to deal with him when you don't know the way?”
“What,” exclaimed Chaerecrates, “don't I know how to deal with a brother, when I know how to requite a kind word and a generous deed? But I can't speak or act kindly to one who tries to annoy me by his words and actions — and what's more, I won't try.”
“Chaerecrates, you astonish me!
Had you a sheep dog that was friendly to the shepherds, but growled when you came near him, it would never occur to you to get angry, but you would try to tame him by kindness. You say that, if your brother treated you like a brother, he would be a great blessing, and you confess that you know how to speak and act kindly: yet you don't set yourself to contriving that he shall be the greatest possible blessing to you.”
“I fear, Socrates
, that I lack the wisdom to make Chaerophon treat me as he should.”
“And yet,” said Socrates
, “there is no need, so far as I see, of any subtle or strange contriving on your part: I think you know the way to win him and to get his good opinion.”
“If you have observed that I know some spell without being conscious of my knowledge, pray tell me at once.”
“Then tell me, now; if you wanted to get an invitation to dine with an acquaintance when he offers sacrifice, what would you do?”
“Of course I should begin by inviting him myself when I offered sacrifice.”
“And suppose you wanted to encourage one of your friends to look after your affairs during your absence from home, what would you do?”
“Of course I should first undertake to look after his affairs in his absence.”
“And suppose you wanted a stranger to entertain you when you visited his city, what would you do?”
“Obviously I should first entertain him when he came to Athens
. Yes, and if I wanted him to show himself eager in forwarding the business on which I had come, it is obvious that I should first have to do the same by him.”
“It seems that you have long concealed a knowledge of all spells that were ever discovered. Or is it that you hesitate to make a beginning, for fear of disgracing yourself by first showing kindness to your brother? Yet it is generally thought worthy of the highest praise to anticipate the malevolence of an enemy and the benevolence of a friend. So if I thought Chaerophon more capable than you of showing the way to this friendship, I would try to persuade him to take the first step towards an understanding with you. But as things are, I think the enterprise more likely to succeed under your direction.”
“Strange sentiments, these, Socrates
It's quite unlike you to urge me, the junior, to lead the way! And surely all hold the contrary opinion, that the senior, I mean, should always act and speak first?”
“How so?” said Socrates
“Is it not the general opinion that a young man should make way for an older when they meet,2
offer his seat to him, give him a comfortable bed, let him have the first word? My good friend, don't hesitate, but take up the task of pacifying your man, and in no time he will respond to your overtures. Don't you see how keen and frank he is? Low fellows, it is true, yield most readily to gifts, but kindness is the weapon most likely to prevail with a gentleman.”
“And what,” asked Chaerecrates, “if all my efforts lead to no improvement?”
“Well, in that case, I presume you will have shown that you are honest and brotherly, he that he is base and unworthy of kindness. But I am confident that no such result will follow; for I think that, as soon as he is aware of your challenge to this contest, he will be all eagerness to outdo your kind words and actions.
What if a pair of hands refused the office of mutual help for which God made them, and tried to thwart each other; or if a pair of feet neglected the duty of working together, for which they were fashioned, and took to hampering each other? That is how you two are behaving at present.
Would it not be utterly senseless and disastrous to use for hindrance instruments that were made for help? And, moreover, a pair of brothers, in my judgment, were made by God to render better service one to the other than a pair of hands and feet and eyes and all the instruments that he meant to be used as fellows. For the hands cannot deal simultaneously with things that are more than six feet or so apart: the feet cannot reach in a single stride things that are even six feet apart: and the eyes, though they seem to have a longer range, cannot at the same moment see things still nearer than that, if some are in front and some behind. But two brothers, when they are friends, act simultaneously for mutual benefit, however far parted one from the other.”