Thursday, August 21, 2008

Plato’s Cave, Tunnel Vision and those Shadows on the Wall

Cave as tunnel vision revealing deep inside a construction worker
Mammoth Cave Canyon
Imagine what it would be like to be in Plato’s Cave. All bound, hands and feet, our head looking only in one direction, as we follow flickering shadows on the walls and are enthralled and entranced with them.

Wait a minute. That is exactly how most of us spend our time, isn't it? We experience “tunnel vision” our whole perception and attention is on the glowing little screen in front of us. We may not be bound, physically that is; we can get up and go to the washroom anytime or grab another beer from the fridge. We sit there, with our feet stretched out, our beer at reach, and a bowl of peanuts and nachos at our free disposal while watching the tube or the computer screen.

When Plato wrote his cave myth, he meant to show us that we were erroneous in believing that the “appearance” of the world was the ultimate reality. The prominent Greek philosopher believed that the physical world is nothing but a shadow, and where there is a shadow, there must be a fountain of light.

This is what one the “cavemen” experienced as he broke free from the mob and took a peek outside. He was amazed by the bright rays of the sun and saw everything bathed in its divine light. No more somber shadows but pure light delight!

“Man”, he said, “wait 'till my homies and bros get a load of this!” So he returned to the cave and to his surprise nobody believed him. Or if they did, they were comfortably nestled in their cave, on their stone couches and did not want to lift a finger … unless it was for switching channels. “Step outside? No way, man, you crazy or what?”

Seeing the “light of truth” and coming back to tell the others, sounds like a pretty crazy idea to me! One should learn from other people's mistakes. Any prophet can vouchsafe that unless you don’t value your own life, unless you are “lebensmüde” as the Germans say, you'd better keep your mouth shut.

The cave is our culture of consumption, where we see the shadow of reality, or rather a reflection of a shadow on the captivating screen, while the media spoon-feeds us information, binding and blinding us with conventional thoughts and values.

Doubtless to say, Plato would be "pissed" if he came back. In fact, I could see him retire from modern civilization, join an Amish or Mennonite group and be completely and quite happily ignorant of who and what Britney Spears is.

Yet I would love him to become a blogger, sit with his laptop at the foot of a mountain by the side of a flowing river in a Grecian town and post all his frustrations with the modern world on his own official site: Plato against the rest of the

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