The Daily Aztec

Out of the Cave and Into the Frying Pan: Part I

by Brandon Edwards-Schuth

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Hello readers, thinkers, brothers and sisters! Apologies for breaking the usual posting schedule, the semester is winding down and the staircase of stress with steps of papers and things to read winds steeply upward… This week’s post is regarding Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” but with a modern twist. This analogy was featured in Plato’s The Republic and was (I’m quite sure) “The Matrix” of the Greeks. So let’s look a little more at this and see why this parable is still famous… Onward philosopher kings!

Imagine yourself, born into a dark room, forever chained to your comfy seat. On either side of you there are your friends and perhaps even family, all of whom have also been born into the same circumstances as you. You can only ever look forward, never more than a bit to the side, and in front of you is the large white wall that displayed the “world.” There were “houses with doors” and “sports” and “cars.” Your favorite was when the guitar player would appear on the wall and everyone would sing the songs she would play. You loved the world and all of its things you’ve seen. But, the “world” is there on that wall, and it’s the only world you’ve ever known. And everything was about to be changed…

One day, the shackles that bound you broke free. You turned your head, far more than you’ve ever experienced before, and your stomach dropped at what you saw. Behind where you and your friends and family had been imprisoned, sat a machine high above shooting a bright light at your “world”. You look quickly to the wall. Then back to the machine. Everyone few seconds the machine would move different pieces and the “world” on the wall would change. You raise your hand and notice that the images appear on your palms. Some of your friends scream in horror as to your interruption, “oops.”

“Had the world been just whatever the machine does? And where am I?” you think to yourself.

Your friends and family are completely oblivious to your freedom.

“Come, come! The guitar player is back!” one of your friends yells.

Before you can return to your seat, you see a new line of white light appear in the corner of the room. The light quickly disappears, and you think you can make out what you know to be a “door.”

“Perhaps another machine!” you yell in excitement.

“Shhh!” reply your friends and family.

You hesitate, but curiosity finally entices you. You run and push yourself into the “door” and come out into a partially lit hallway, a bright light is in the distance. You squint hard and run again towards the light. Brighter and brighter, the light begins to grow and eventually it completely consumes you.

The pain is too much so you cover them. You keep your eyes closed for minutes.

Slowly, you open them, but find that you must still keep them half closed and your head down. It is warm here, unlike the coldness of the room.

As you continue to walk, you notice a reflection from a pool of water close to your foot. The blinding light is still there, but you are able to see other things. You see houses with doors and people playing sports and driving cars, but are these fake too?

In your eagerness for discovery you open your eyes. All around you are the things you remembered you had seen in the dark room, but there was no machine (at least that you could see) that was making them. You hastily dash to a house with doors and pound on it. It feels solid and real!

The door opens and an older man answers, “Yes?”

“Are you real?” you shout with a brilliance that even Zeus himself could hear.

The man stares at you in shock. “Yes, now get away from me,” he says and slams the door in your face. You can’t believe that this is the world and you decide to knock again just to check. This time the door doesn’t open but you hear the man’s voice, “I’m going to call the cops!” You jump in joy that it is true, this is the real world where the sun shines bright above, and real is all of this.

“But what of the others?” you think to yourself. Quickly, you run back down into the darkness, your eyes requiring you to readjust again.

Back in the dark room, you stand in front of your fellow prisoners and try to explain the world outside.

“Oh c’mon,” they shout at you, “This is real, get out of the way, are you calling us fools, you’re the disoriented one!”

The crowd begins to grow more and more angry as you desperately try to describe the outside, the truth. You notice they begin to fight their fetters in an attempt to grab you, all because of your contrary words. If they were free, they would much rather live in naivety and punish the contraries then to step out of the comfort and try to find truth.

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Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” displayed themes of illusion, truth, conformity, as well as various other themes. For Socrates, who has been recorded as both a real person and just a main character in Plato’s writings, the unexamined life isn’t worth living. To remain in the cave is limit your experiences. A relevant idea even today.

So what’s part two you ask?

You’ll just have to wait and see my dears for the next post, but I assure you it will be a dilemma.

Words of wisdom until next time: Not questioning and not honestly seeking truth wherever it may take you is to confine your possible experiences to a limit that you set. Essentially, a self-created, self-sustained invisible mental prison…

 

 

 

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