The Allegory of the Cave
From birth, you’ve been a prisoner chained to a chair alongside other prisoners in a dark cave whose only source of light was a large fire behind and above you.
Your head was fixed such that you couldn’t look in any direction besides straight ahead of you. This chair was facing the interior of the cave, and on the cave wall in front of you, you were only able to see the shadows of all that passed before the flame behind you.
Rather than see a book, you saw the shadow of the book.
Rather than seeing an apple, you saw the shadow of one.
Rather than seeing a person, you saw their shadow.
This is all you’ve ever seen. Distorted shadows dancing upon the wall before you inside the moist, dark cave to the tune of intermittent echoes punctuating the pitch black silence. Never the item itself. This is all the fellow people next to you have seen. This is all you’ve ever known.
But one day, you are released from your chains and wander out of the cave that you’ve called home for so long…
You enter the Light of the outside world for the first time in your life.
At first, the Light is blinding and confusing. It’s frightening and unknown. The rays pierce your pupils like daggers doused in deadly venom…You are overrun with panic and tumultuously tempted to scamper in retreat back into the cold, dark comfort of the cave and the life you’ve grown up in. All you’ve ever known was darkness…your system cannot take the shock it’s just been dealt.
You stumble in a mental haze, grasping for something to grip for support. At first you can only see the shadows in the external world. But little by little, your blurry vision migrates towards crystal clear clarity and accustoms to the new reality. You are soon able to see everything for what it really is.
The vibrant colors, the vivid detail, the depths and dimensions. You can’t believe that you have missed out on such a rich world of visual complexity and marvelousness for so long while only seeing the shadows in the cave.
Bursting with excitement, all you want to do is go back into the cave and bring others out and into the Light to see the wonderful world out there. They simply must know! You must release them so they can experience it as well!
Although to your surprise, they don’t want to. They are comfortable. The light is scary. They reject the newfound reality you’ve discovered. They prefer the shadows and call you crazy and threaten to murder you if you untie them and lead them out there. They choose to remain in the cave, prisoner and limited to the simple shadows…
Enter the Light
This story – which I’ve modified and adapted here for my readers – was first introduced in The Republic to illustrate his Theory of Forms, considered by many to be the most prestigious work of the renowned ancient greek philosopher, Plato.
“What does such a tale have to do with me?”, you may wonder…
You see, the world lives in this cave as a prisoner. They don’t see reality for what it is. They don’t know truth. They don’t know the true wonders of life in all of its true colors, depths, and detail. They only know what they’ve been shown since birth.
What they’ve been spoonfed and led to believe – pitiful morsels incapable of feeding their soul and all the life contained within them…and they take these shadows to be how life is.
When let loose, they stay nestled in their chains and reject the true world of wonder that awaits them beyond the cave. They meet any claims challenging their world of shadows with hostile criticism and mockery. Born in the cave and doomed to death in the cave.
Are you living in this world of shadows? Are you truly living? On your terms? In truth?
My friends, always seek understanding and truth above all.
Never be afraid to ask questions. Never be afraid to doubt.
Never be afraid to face the world for what it truly is.
Because that’s truly the only way to live.