Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Platonic Allegory Revisited

Actually, this title is somewhat misleading. It should say something like, "A Platonic allegory rewritten, Megan-style...with an entirely different ending tacked on." However, I thought that the lengthiness of such a title would severely damage the post's aesthetic appeal, and therefore, drawn even less readers than it currently has. This story is based off an allegory that can be found in the book Republic, by Plato, at the beginning of chapter 7.

Once upon a time there was a small cave, completely surrounded by a beautiful, tropical paradise, and in it dwelled three people. There was something interesting about the way in which these people lived inside this cave…namely, they were all strapped to chairs, unable to move their limbs, or even turn their heads. They each sat facing a cave wall, and behind them roared a great fire. The only images these people could see were shadows reflected onto the cave wall by the light of the fire. They did, however, still have voices to communicate with…and they did just that. Although none really knew what the others looked like, save for the blurry cast of their shadow, they thought they must know all things very well…for they could not well imagine anything besides the small existence they had known. These three cave-dwellers had very different personalities. The first one, Ann, was very set in her ways. Actually, it went beyond that…change was her biggest enemy, and her greatest fear. She earnestly enjoyed being strapped to the chair…because she never wanted to see beyond what she knew. The second one, John, made famous the motto “ignorance is bliss”. Change was a subject of apathy for him. He could live with it, or without it. Truth was irrelevant…all that mattered was what he could see, and he had no desire to venture beyond it.The third cave inhabitant—Sarah—was unlike both Ann and John. She longed to break free of the binding chains. She desired nothing more than to see for herself the world which she knew existed, yet beyond that, of which she knew nothing. One day, a vision came to all three of them, and they were told that if they struggled hard enough, they could indeed break free of their chains. Each one’s reaction was different. When Ann heard they news, her fingers curled tightly around the arm of the chair, gripping it fiercely. Her movements (what little she was able) stilled further, so as not to upset her position. She whispered a prayer that she would never, ever be wrenched from her precious chair and chains. As the news sunk in for John, not much changed. He decided that anything that he might “discover” outside of his cave wouldn’t really be worth the effort it took to get there. All that struggling, grappling, and straining was bound to work up a sweat, and John simply didn’t have the energy. Maybe one day he would try…but it was doubtful. As Sarah absorbed the vision, she was emerged in a sea of hope. Feeling giddy with anticipation, and ferocious with determination, she immediately began struggling against her ties. All day she pushed and pulled and strained against the wretched chains that had been a part of her forever. Her body cried out in pain as she pressed on, never letting up in her fight. She had a singular goal, and nothing was more important.Eventually, her hard work paid off. All the effort, pain, and times of doubt were rewarded when she finally heard the clink of breaking metal. As Sarah’s chains fell free, she began to shake. What to do now? The struggle was over…she could walk into the light. But what if it wasn’t light, at all? What if dreadful evils lie outside of the cave…outside of her line of vision? The thoughts surfaced in rapid succession. Why had she not thought of these things before? She knew the answer…she had been too focused on ridding herself of what kept her bound in falsehood to ponder whether or not falsehood was that bad of a devil at all…and, if it was, whether or not it was worth entering into something so completely unknown in order to rid herself of it. With a deep breath of fortitude, laced with the shakiness of uncertainty, she decided then and there to not let her agonizing effort go to waste. Quaking to her bones, she slowly turned her head and rose from the chair. It was then that she entered into pure Truth...pure joy.


Steve Rho Hill said...

I love the entry. I've heard something along this line in a comic book. I understand your post even better than the comic book. Anyway, thanks for the insights. They help.

Anonymous said...

Interesting . . . That reminded me very much of "Anthem" by Ayn Rand. Not necessarily in content, but in philosophy. Good book . . . you ought to read it.

Megan said...

Steve: Thank you! I'm glad that they helped. I was worried that some big-wig philosophy PhD was going to chew me out for mutilating this allegory. ;-)

Sehrgut: I will have to look into that book.

The main point of this post (which I didn't write in the post itself, since it was already so long...) was to point out common attitudes/behavior of Christians. Oftentimes, though people may claim to know "the truth", they have no interest in finding out why exactly it *is* the truth. They are content to essentially take an eternal gamble, which I find sad.