I relate this week to the LAW OF GROWTH. All humans, animals, nature and life itself follows this natural law and if something or someone isn’t growing, it’s naturally either wilting, stagnating, disintegrating or dying.
Way back, Socrates told a story as a metaphor and Plato put this story into words as the “Allegory of the Cave” ….AKA ‘Plato’s Cave’
The story has two elements:
1. The fictional metaphor of the prisoners
2. The philosophical views in which the story is supposed to represent, presenting us with the metaphor.
I hope this helps others to understand what I have learned about the Law of Growth. I use italics to guide the story with the meaning I have attached to it.
Imagine a cave in which prisoners are chained down and forced to look upon the front wall in the darkness of an underground cave
They cannot turn their heads to see what goes on behind them.
They can sit, they can stand, they can turn their head from side to side, they can take a step forwards and backwards, but that is the extent of it.
This is symbolic of how many of us stand on what you could call ‘the 50 yard line of life’….. too afraid to reach for the goal in case we miss, too afraid to go too far in case we fail. Many people (including me until the lightbulb went on) don’t easily seem to appreciate that we are literally keeping ourselves as prisoners in a cave due to holding an image within ourselves of the person we THINK we are, ought to be, should be, or who others tell us we are.
To the back of the prisoners, under the protection of the parapet are images casting their shadows on the wall in which the prisoners perceive their ‘reality’.
In front of the prisoners is a wall from which shadows are moving back and forth and from these shadows there are voices coming from them directly to the prisoners.
The shadows and voices are coming from one area of the cave. Behind these prisoners, there are people walking back and forth unaware of the prisoners in the cave. They are people entering a passage in the cave, coming in from the ocean, carrying treasures. As they walk by a flaming fire, their shadows bounce off the wall of the cave and come back at the prisoners starring at the wall. As they speak, their voices travel and echo from the wall, so it would appear that the voices and shadows are real to the prisoners and they have no knowledge of what’s going on at the back of them.
As Socrates describes the cave and the situation of the prisoners, he conveys the point that the prisoners would be inherently mistaken as to what is this reality. This is an important development in the story because it shows us that what we perceive as real from birth is completely false, based on our imperfect interpretations of reality. The point up until here is that the general ‘meaning’ and ‘labels’ we put on the words and language we use of physical objects we see, are actually names of things which aren’t visible to us, and things we can only comprehend with our mind. This is the power of our ‘imagination’ as Plato describes.
One day, the chain break away from one of the prisoners at the end of the line and he looks up at a light coming in from above the cave.
All of us are motivated to move in the direction of a light – every single person is genetically built to GROW. Just in the same way a plant would grow in the direction of light, so do we.
This prisoner sees the light and moves in the direction of the light.
As he begins to move, don’t you think that there would be
some apprehension of some kind?
As he gets closer to the light he begins to see the entire spectrum of light to the point it almost blinds him and is overwhelming.
Again, being genetically built to move in the direction of light, he begins to climb.
As he begins to climb, don’t you think he’s going to feel some fear?
As he reaches the surface, he sees the clouds, the sky, the sun, grass and the entire beauty of the outside world and all it has to offer. Don’t you think he would now be in a state of wonder and amazement?
Do you think that what he once thought was real is not necessarily real and that maybe there was something else?
In other words, the way he was living and the results he was getting, or that he had, weren’t the ONLY results – don’t you think that suddenly now he realises there is something more he could possibly do, be or have?
As he begins to walk around, he comes to a lake and looks in and sees an image and runs away from the image? He saw the image of himself.
As he backtracks he stands at the entrance of the cave and hears the prisoners shout, “come back, we’ll offer you rewards to tell us what you see”.
Do you think the prisoner would be bothered about such rewards?
If he did go down and tell them what he saw, do you think they would believe him?
If he did go back down, don’t you think they would say, “Up you went, then you came down again, isn’t it better not to have gone up at all?”
The real danger is that you will never get from the underground den, or escape from a PRISON, unless you recognise that you’re in one.
Once the prisoner is released, he is forced to look upon the fire, and object that once dictated his perception of reality, and he realises that the images in front of him are now the accepted forms of reality.
Plato described the vision of the real truth to be ‘aching’ in the prisoner’s eyes and how they would naturally be inclined to go back and view what they have always seen as a pleasant and painless acceptance of the truth. This stage of thinking is a ‘belief’. The comfort of the ‘perceived’ and the fear of the ‘unrecognised’ outside world would result in a prisoner being forced to climb the cave and step outside into the bright sun, but once in full view of the sun’s rays, Socrates explains that the prisoners bewilderment, fear, and blindness to objects he now knows as real, means the prisoner could now recognise reflections and shadows.
Once out into the outside world, this is then perceived as a form of goodness and not long ago he was actually blind to this form of goodness and is now aware of new reality and new truth.
This, I believe represents a heightened level of understanding and the prisoner’s new awareness. With new awareness, the prisoner would rather suffer any fate than return to his previous life and understanding (or lack thereof). If he returned to the cave, the prisoner would metaphorically (and literally) enter a world of darkness again and would have to live with the other prisoners again.
Those prisoners would likely laugh at the released prisoner and ridicule him for moving out of the cave in the first place.
Others can’t understand something that they have yet to experience.
This also represents life, in my opinion – a journey we travel through and gain new understandings and perspectives as we go – the stages of thought and the progress of human development represent our own path to complete awareness. The story also represents a unique look at the ways in which reality plays such an important part in our own existence.
Genetically engineered to keep growing – the LAW of GROWTH
I love how I am growing every single day……
I love the imagery that stories and metaphors can bring with them new understanding and appreciation – so powerful. Thank you Socrates and Plato !!