socrates and elvis walk into a bar

Es­ti­mated reading time is 3 min­utes.

ELVIS AND SOCRATES walk into a bar. No, wait—should it be “Socrates and Elvis”? Ei­ther way, here’s what this post is all about: I came across a 3-minute video of In­dian guru Gaur Gopal Das talking about gossip. Nor­mally, I avoid the ad­vice of “wise” men—especially those I have not heard of—but this was on my daugh­ter’s Face­book page and she’s pretty good at picking these things out of all the crap on so­cial media.

So Gopal Das tells the story of the three tests or fil­ters that Socrates sug­gested when being of­fered gossip. At least, this test is at­trib­uted to Socrates; his­to­rians can’t pin down the origin of the story. As with most good ad­vice, the origin is irrlevant—the mes­sage is what matters:

A stu­dent ap­proached the great philoso­pher, Socrates. He told his teacher, “I have just heard some news about one of your friends.”

Be­fore you tell me this news,” re­sponded Socrates, “it needs to pass the triple filter test.”

The stu­dent was con­fused: “The triple filter test?” 

“The first test is truth,” re­sponded Socrates. “Do you know that what you want to tell me is ab­solutely true?”

The stu­dent said, “I heard this news from someone else, so I’m not 100% cer­tain it is true.”

The second test is good­ness,” re­sponded Socrates. “Is what you want to tell me some­thing good?”

No,” said the stu­dent. “Ac­tu­ally, it’s rather bad.”

The final test which is use­ful­ness,” re­sponded Socrates. “Is what you want to tell me going to be useful?”

Prob­ably not,” said the student.

So you want to tell me some­thing that is not true, that is not good, and that is not useful?” re­sponded Socrates, “Why tell it to me at all?”


Elvis ElvisForEveryone LPM 3450 600

The 1961 recording of Sound Ad­vice was even­tu­ally is­sued on the 1965 album ELVIS FOR EVERYONE (RCA Victor LPM/LSP-3450). The bland cover art re­flects the na­ture and quality many of the twelve tracks on the album.

Sound advice they’re giving

On July 2, 1961, Elvis Presley recorded six songs for the sound­track to his latest movie, Follow That Dream. Four of the tracks were sub­se­quently is­sued as an EP album of the same title (EPA-4368) in 1962. One of the songs that was not se­lected was Sound Ad­vice, a pleas­antly in­nocuous song written by the team of Bernie Baum, Bill Giant, and Flo­rence Kaye.

The lyrics ac­tu­ally com­ple­ment the Socrates story on the three fil­ters of truth. Here they are (punc­tu­a­tion pro­vided by me):

Some folks tell you what to do.
They think they know more than you.
They in­sist that they’re giving sound advice,
but as sure as you’re living—
it ain’t sound!
It ain’t nice!
It just doesn’t sound like sound advice.

Some folks like to be the boss.
They get up on their high horse.
They say that you’re get­ting sound advice,
there’s one thing I’m betting—
It ain’t wise!
It ain’t nice!
You won’t like the sound of their advice.

Sound ad­vice we’re given, sound advice.
Just as sure as your as you’re living—
if you’re smart, you’ll think twice,
when they start to sound off with advice.
Don’t listen to their sound advice!

So, a wise man might heed the sug­ges­tions of Socrates and Elvis and give heed to nei­ther oth­er’s gossip nor to oth­er’s advice.

You want to tell me some­thing that is not true, that is not good, and that is not useful? Click To Tweet

Socrates statue 1500

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page os of the statue of Socrates lo­cated in front of the Academy of Athens. The Academy is Greece’s na­tional academy and the highest re­search es­tab­lish­ment in the country. Es­tab­lished in 1926, it op­er­ates under the su­per­vi­sion of the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion. The Acad­e­my’s main building with its modern stat­uary in the clas­sical Greek mode is one of the major land­marks of Athens.

Fi­nally, there is no “socrates and elvis walk into a bar” joke: it’s just a way to catch your at­ten­tion and get you to read this ar­ticle and hope­fully take some sound advice . . .




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