Shadows on The Wall

Telling someone the truth before they are ready is as if you are telling them a lie.

Plato illustrated it beautifully in one of my all time favorite stories……here is my version

Once upon a time there were some prisoners chained deep inside a cave. They had been there their whole life. They were chained so tightly they were unable to turn and see the fire that burned behind them. Unbeknown to them puppeteers held up various objects in front of the fire, which cast shadows on the cave wall before them. They sat there, watching the shadows on the wall.

This was the only reality they had ever known. Over time some of the prisoners deduced patterns in the appearance of these shadows, and began to classify them, and the effect they had on the prisoners. One called it science, another psychology, another philosophy, one documented everything and called it history, one politics, and one was uncommitted, he called it chaos theory.

One day, a prisoner was released. In fact, he released himself. He loosened up a little from his intent focus on the wall and his shackles simply fell loose. When he arose he was blinded initially by the light of the fire that roared behind them, and then as his eyes naturally adjusted they were drawn to a light coming from a portal leading to the outside. When he emerged he was astonished to see a completely new reality or dimension of these people, animals, and objects casting these shadows onto the cave wall.

Image converted using ifftoanyPlato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’ can be read in Book VII of The Republic.

A couple of years passed before he returned back to the cave to tell the prisoners the news, but to his dismay, the prisoners did not believe his fantastic stories of a world outside of the cave, or even of the real objects just behind them. For the shadows on the wall were the only truth the prisoners had ever known, and therefore, to them, reality. They did not have the vocabulary or empirical experience to understand what this mad prisoner who returned had to tell them. “What the cave are you on about? A tri-an-gle? Its called a eucladaxim you foolish man, its sole purpose is to regulate the eyedego.”

This is not The End.

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