Plato’s Cave

Plato was a Greek philosopher from around 400 B.C.  Another smart guy from history.  He reflected on what is real in life, and has shown us a new possibility using a powerful metaphor.

Plato asks us to imagine a cave, with a group of prisoners facing the back wall, their bodies and heads chained and unable to move.  Talk about a restricted view of life.  Behind these folks, near the entrance of the cave, is a massive bonfire.  Between the prisoners and the fire is a walkway on which other people walk by, carrying a varety of objects in their hands.  They cast shadows on the back wall, the only things that the immobilized humans can see.

If you can only see one thing, that has to be what’s real for you.  What if so much of our present day lives is just a shadow of reality?  Like gossip, small talk, complaining, winning and losing, better and worse, succeeding and failing?

The prisoners decided that the highest status holders among them were those who could best predict what shadow would come along the walkway next, or … seeing a particular shadow, be able to identify all its details of shape and size.  Those were the champions of life, similar to the ones today whom so many of us worship in the realms of sports and entertainment.  Could this all be false?

What would happen if someone released a prisoner from the chains (or they magically figured out how to set themselves free)?  No doubt they would turn around and see flesh-and-blood human beings walking in front of them, entities with a vibrant aliveness that they had never experienced before.  Would these beings be honoured and loved, or reviled and condemned?

And what of the fire?  Would the intense light blind them?  The heat fry their circuits?  Or would awe transform their faces?

Beyond the fire is the mouth of the cave, and past that the big, wide world … infinitely beyond those shadows.

What transcendent realities am I willing to let in?
What’s just too scary to accept?
Will I let my life be transformed?

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