I woke up today, randomly thinking about Plato. Strange to wake up on a Wednesday morning thinking about a philosopher that I don’t particularly care for, but really, not surprising.
Why are we here? Why do I know this? Why am I dressed like a wench? Do I always look this vacuous when I am thinking?
Philosophy makes me crazy. I think philosophers had way too much time on their hands to just sit and contemplate things that in many cases are common sense items. I really think I hate “philosophy”. It is somewhat of a contradiction in my character because I, myself, spend a great deal of time thinking about what philosophers think about… the principles of existence and reality, ad other such things. I am no expert on philosophy either, but of all the philosophies I have read, I really, really dislike Plato. One might say I am more Team Aristotle, but I digress.
I awakened today thinking about Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, here are a couple of summaries:
Anyway, basically, it is the idea that we humans don’t know what life and reality is because we are chained in a cave of darkness. The only way to escape the fate of ignorance, or the cave, is to be a truth seeker and escape into the light of the sun which is knowledge, truth and all things good. This is my two second explanation and interpretation of a complex and multilayered idea.
Anyway, a modern reference to this idea is in the movie, The Matrix. The idea is that humanity is enslaved by false reality. And we like it, as evidenced by the character of Cypher, who questions his own action of freeing his mind of ignorance by asking himself, “Why, oh why, didn’t I take the BLUE pill?”
This is what was tickling my brain this morning. The “ignorance is bliss” part, not the reality part. It’s hard for me to think about reality first thing in the morning, coming out of some of the dreams I have. And I am pretty sure reality is different for everyone based on their perceptions. Yet, there are people who strive to perceive more than others. Some people have no issue with ignoring signs of things that might threaten their perception of reality. When people are so caught up in their own lives, and what is happening, it is hard to go look for more stuff to stress about. And it is stressful perceiving reality differently.
Getting back to the “Allegory of the Cave”, when the emancipated, enlightened man goes back into the cave to free his fellows, they think he is crazy and want to hurt him. That is the fate of the enlightened being. To be burdened with knowing and not being able to convince everyone. Sure there are people who will give it a shot and try to see what he sees, but the majority will choose to close their eyes, their minds and their hearts to the possibilities.
Politics, religion, art… Heck, everything that is worth having an opinion requires an open mind. Ignorance makes appreciating any of these things fully, impossible. Yet as humans, we will never all agree or see things the way others may see them. Of course there is also the fact that one might free their mind of ignorance in regard to one thing but not another. In addition, there is always the thought that maybe not knowing was better. The idea that I was happy in the cave not knowing what a real tree was is an interesting one to me as well. Maybe just as important as knowing there is something else out there.
This is the part that makes me crazy. So why do we bother, trying to perceive more than the cave? Why do we force ourselves to see things that others will argue with us about and then want to possibly physically hurt us for thinking as we do? Why do I make myself crazy trying to learn more and more?
I am not sure why, but I feel it may be that I’m convinced that if I learn just a tiny bit more that suddenly things will be better. People will see what I am saying and start singing and dancing harmoniously together. Everything will be fixed in the universe. But if I really believe that, maybe, despite seeing the real trees and the sun, there is a part of me blissfully chained in the darkness of a cave somewhere.