37.40 The Story of Plato’s Caves


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From the desk of Rabbi Brian


The concept in this article, Plato’s Caves, is one of my all time favorites!
– RB

What follows is a modern, updated version of Plato‘s allegory of the caves:

people, immediately following their birth, are strapped into seats in a
movie theater. They can only see the screen in front of them and they
are never allowed to leave their chairs.
They believe, consequently, that the flat pictures on the walls in front of them are the totality of reality.
one day, one of these people leaves the theater, stumbles outside, and
experiences the three-dimensional life that you and I call reality.
This person spends a considerable amount of time surprised, suspicious
and incredulous. But, eventually, the reality outside the cave is
understood to be “true” reality.
freed, “enlightened” person now feels compelled to return into the
theater to try to “liberate” and “educate” those still bound by the
delusion that cinema is reality. The people in the cave (the old way of
seeing things) deem the self-proclaimed liberator a heretic.

So it is with us.
We have all grown in our lives.
Everything that was true for us in the past does not continue to be true for us now.
St. Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I thought as a child…” And he’s right.
may want to believe that this isn’t the case – that we have always had
a homogeneous consistent world-view – but it’s simply impossible.
Reality isn’t monolithic.
Reality – as much as we might crave for it to be otherwise – isn’t fixed.
We often come to new understandings.
And once we come to new understandings, we can’t go back to our old, comfortable ways of thinking.
amazing how often we all willfully pretend otherwise – we continue to
associate with people and engage in activities that we know are no
longer beneficial to us, purely for nostalgia’s sake.
I am amazed by how frequently we all try to “save” people and get them
to see reality as we see it – assuming that they will thank us – only
to discover, yet again, they didn’t want our help.

Spiritual-Religious advice for the week: remember that dealing with reality has been hard for people for at least the past two thousand years.


With love,

Rabbi Brian

Rabbi Brian


Footnote with regard to the Bible:
never encountered anyone who has been upset with me for telling this
parable with the inclusion of modern media as opposed to Plato’s
original presentation: people chained in a cave with a fire behind them
and people walking between the fire and them, thereby projecting
shadows on the wall. Plato’s allegory of the caves is a truth story, not a true
story. The setting is modern as opposed to ancient does not take away
from the truth of the story. I believe the same is true of Bible stories- they are not meant to be read as true stories, but as truth stories.

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