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A Long Time Ago, In A Reality Far, Far Away

“A LONG TIME AGO, IN A REALITY FAR, FAR AWAY”

AN ALLEGORY FROM PLATO

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Begin at the beginning,” I’ve always heard that’s the best place to start.” And so…in the beginning, there was a dimly lit space in the rear of a cave. In this cave lived a group of people with chains about their necks, each of them carrying out what could hardly be considered life while bound to the floor. The light inside the cave was created by a fire which burned continually without respect for day or night. They were fed regularly, yet never saw the faces of those who brought the foods and water on a daily basis. Forced to look in one direction constantly was limiting to the general understanding of the images and shadows which they could view on the wall in front of them. As things passed by their field of vision, the viewers formed opinions that, to them, seemed to be logical associations of the images they beheld and sounds they heard. Hence, their reality was formed by the understanding of their environment through their experiences of their senses, reinforced by living daily repetition.

As things paraded by and a sound was heard, this sound was assumed to have originated from whatever it followed. Thus, the people were totally dependent on the limited information with which their minds assembled their “world of reality.” Once upon a time, the chains that held one of the captives fell off unexpectedly and the man was freed. At first, he was frightened, then as he instinctively stretched, he turned around slowly and left the security of the rest of his people on a mission of exploration. The man was understandably overwhelmed by this new ability to move about freely and take in all that he was now privy to see. He squinted, eyes straining in an attempt to focus, brain struggling to interpret his surroundings. Even inside a dim, dank cave, it was as if a filter had been ripped away and all that he beheld was in technicolor, bathed in unfamiliar light.

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At this point, he curiously approached this new light source, hesitating momentarily in consideration of the fact that he could also be approaching danger. He edged closer to the cave’s exit, his head an aching, pounding jumble of stimuli, troubled and unsure of what lay ahead. Finally free from the cave’s darkness and limiting vision, crawling on his hands and knees, squinting in order to limit the light seemingly trying to enter his head all at once, he makes the shade of a… whatever this is. He has his first physical encounter with a tree although he’s not quite sure if it moves or makes sounds, he is aware that it provides a small break in the pain level in his head. He attributes this to the lesser brilliance of the light due to the shade. As dusk falls and it always does, he leaves the light shelter of the tree in search of the necessary commodities which he previously took for granted, warmth, food, and water.

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On the path of his journey, he encounters another man traveling and is surprised. The stranger greets him in a friendly, neighborly manner and discovers that the man speaks a sort of broken common language in this part of the world. Our “cave man” asks the stranger while pointing to a distant silhouette circling high above what is that? A bird flying in the sky, the blue area up there is the sky and the moving object is a bird, there are lots of them up there replied the stranger. Are they dangerous he asked, realizing the odd expression he displayed must have appeared stone-faced frightened on his part, no not at all said the traveler, with a sort of reassuring grin, harmless to people but they can make good tasting soup.

Our two subjects become traveling companions as the man who calls himself Dave feels the obligation to assist in the education of our “cave man”, a fellow traveler and soon to become, a friend. As the lives of the two friends intertwine, many days of exploits and experiences are shared, our “cave man” begins to develop new thoughts and a sharper picture of his newly discovered reality, however that’s another story for another time. Meanwhile, back at the ranch …..

After several months of learning at Dave’s capable hands, our hero who goes by the name of Dudley, given him by his newly found friend, is beginning to feel homesick and Dave becomes aware his student is obviously depressed. He knows from past discussions that Dudley is also feeling guilty because his family and friends are still in the dark in the back of the cave, all the while he is enjoying the wonderful experiences and new found freedoms in the big beautiful world. Not to mention his expanded understanding of true reality, while deeply desiring to correct all the mistaken ideas and misconceptions of the world still held by his fellow cave dwellers. The others of the cave believe that the cave is all that the world consists of due to their constrained and limited experiences. The conditions required by their laws, which are built upon those ideas, he now finds totally detestable and completely unacceptable. Dudley communicates his feelings to Dave , who encourages him to do what he thinks is right and they part company agreeing to meet up three months later in the spot where they parted, neither of them enjoying the goodbye.

Time waits for no man, and Dudley was no exception as he travels back to find his cave exit which is now to become his entrance back into the world he knew as his reality up to the time he stumbled into the light. As he winds his way back down the interior of the cave, his eyes strain to see in the dimly lit atmosphere he had once known, all the new experiences, and knowledge he gained are swirling around in his brain. It all suddenly falls on him like a rock, how to explain the new found reality which he knows is true and right. He attempts to formulate a plan of resolution to the problem, without much success as he realizes that it is difficult to explain something to someone who has never experienced anything that you can use as an understandable reference. It’s like trying to explain”sharks” to a person who has no concept of the ocean, let alone seen a shark. He presses on, as he begins to really struggle with the pounding ache in his head and his increasing vision deficit.

By now he recognizes that he’s reaching the edge of his past home area and all the sudden, over a slight incline, he’s there. All of his friends and family members greet his return with cries of welcome back to their world and the safety of the group … When the loving words and conversations subside, Dudley takes a deep breath and slowly makes a poor attempt to describe the world outside, the world as it really is. He draws a word picture of a bright, shining and peacefully giant new place, where rivers , animals, and many other people run free. Birds fly high in the skies which are lighted by the sun in the day, then by the moon and stars at night. His old friends and family now believe that he is mentally disturbed or has injured his head after the chains fell off him at some point in time since he left the cave and his subsequent return.

Talking among themselves, they even consider that he is most probably possessed by an evil spirit and that his recently acquired malady might contaminate or even destroy them all. The elders agree that this illogical, irreverent babbling must be stopped at any cost, they have become afraid of the wild stories that he describes to them. The impossible scenes of the wildest fantasies they believe no sane person could dream up. Even his own family members begin to fear him as a crazy lunatic that might explode and bring great evil upon them all at any time without warning.

It seems that the society of his previous life has stumbled upon the “Achilles Heel” of all societies, the fear, and intolerance of anyone who does not conform to the “reality of prevalence”. The way of things which have their being and operate in the current thought of present reality. At the last of his breath, poor Dudley did not understand that his society would kill him for the crime of renouncing their sacred beliefs which ultimately defined their reality. Beware, as even today this remains the way of all men with small minds. It is nonetheless true that a person’s reality is dependent on the perspective from which their reality is arranged, logically organized and implemented.

Now, let’s unfold the allegory together, make sense and apply it to the modern “real world” where you and I live. The cave is a representation of the world confined by the beliefs that we allow to be installed into the system of our minds. All human beings are by our very nature controlled by the thoughts that we adopt as our personal reality.

The education systems of today, are a stunning example of this point and are a far cry from the schools of yesteryear. Students and parents have very limited rights in the public school system today. I am 60 something now, when I went to public school we had rights as are granted every American by the word which is not politically correct to use today, the Constitution. We had student councils which represented our rights and they carried some weight in the resolution of matters between the students and the school administration. However that is simply NOT the case today, all functional rules and school regulations are strictly enforced by “so-called “no tolerance policies.” These policies articulate an idea when a rule or policy is violated there exists ONE action that fits all situations, which really means these are no thinking policies. To be blunt and straight to the point, this method of operation is totally void of personal liberty and is the “STATE IS SMARTER THAN YOU” ideology. Big-Brother’s claim that, We the elected and/or appointed, know how to do what’s in your best interest better than you do. The attitude prevails today because those in charge of Government believe that their intelligence level far surpasses yours, “You Big Dummy You!” Rather than make waves or stir up a fuss, most people will try to endure and ignore the problem until it becomes less painful to deal with than it is to live with. In the end, action will ensue and the pain originating from the hemorrhoids will be cured or removed, a kinder way of saying that some people can be a real pain-in-the-butt!

In days gone by, people were deemed innocent until proven guilty and the system weighed the circumstances, gravity and intention points per individual case, rendering a judgment that fit the crime. Alas and sadly the days of intelligence being applied to the spirit of the law, resulting in just punishment for a particular infraction of a law or regulation violation, have all but died. Remember, no tolerance is equal to “no thinking applied”. No matter your political or moral persuasion, this kind of thinking produces a blatantly STUPID law and always will. It is a matter of definition, Justice has a BRAIN, it always did, that doesn’t mean necessarily that all Judges or Lawyers do. Law makers, and those in authority: we the people are tired of your no common sense legislation, fueled by the non-thinking Judicial interpretations of what our laws mean when we can read too! Government has always proven that it will push the boundaries of actions that it is allowed to exercise over the population under its jurisdiction in almost every historical instant that can be imagined or cited. I will attempt here to “get off my soapbox” and get back on the thoughts concerning the relevance of the allegory, while it is still daylight!

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The analogical items of content here are the images seen by the eyes, the sounds processed by the ears, the cave environment, the chains, the absence of light, the inability to control movement or activity, the dependency that supplied necessities provide, the mindset of societal conformity, the acceptance of conditions as “set-in-stone”, learned behaviors, and my personal favorite, faulty science. Do you realize that you can pick any subject, locate the guru’s or experts on that subject and extract from them a multiple, a for real smorgasbord of conflicting and differing opinionated conclusions regarding your subject that are in total opposition one with the other. A great example of this phenomenon might be Psychology, where everyone with a PHD behind their name is “The Expert” and on almost any given topic, some of which aren’t even  related to that field of  science. A more basic example might be general scientific knowledge, it wasn’t just a few hundred years ago, that realistic discussions of interplanetary space travel would have been “poo-pawedby the best minds of that time, however yesterday’s great thinkers would today be totally incorrect with that opinion considering the advances in the science of today. The outside of the box type of thinking that motivates the human mind to dream, explore, explain, invent and imagine is responsible for the major technological scientific advances of the last two centuries.

It has been said, that people are products of their environment, which to some degree, is more or less true. People gravitate toward their comfort zones, which are experienced, taught and conditionally learned responses to the everyday demands of life, we refer to as reality. It should also be noted that we humans like everything in our world wrapped up in a compact, easy to understand, “fits all box” that we can quickly retrieve when anything outside of our normal realm of reality occurs. In short, we are a sum of how we respond to what we experience, applying the adaptation of what we learn, by incorporating it into active initiation, through all we think, feel and imagine. This summation is proven to be reliable and logical as illustrated by the statement: “As a man thinketh, so is he”, which is a paraphrase of a quote from the Bible , arguably the world’s greatest text book. Reality is therefore a product of the power of thought, so your thinking is to blame for the outcome of your life, be it a success or a failure, right? Well, the answer to that question is a matter of one’s perspective as compared to another because like it or not, you and I are products of self / outside influences which enable our minds to organize and implement our concepts of reality into what we believe is the real world.

Next let’s think about the relation of the cave story to the subservient position of the captives, chained to the floor so as to fix their line of sight in only one direction and also control their ability to initiate movement. Logic dictates that their frame of reference, due to the constraints placed on them, caused them to develop their own explanations for a basis to understand the world as they perceived it to be. Think about this one awhile, if when seeing a mere shadow of objects and not the objects themselves pass by you, suppose that whenever you observed the shape of a cow, (instead of the familiar “moo” we know cows produce), what if you were to hear the howl of a wolf? With a little repetition,would you not then surmise that cows produce a sound of a howl? Well, the reasonably logical answer is YES! This is because that’s how the human mind makes sense of reality it is called, the logic of association. The same is true of the senses of feel, smell, taste, and presence, all built and honed by assimilation directed by the logic of association.

The chains draw a mental picture of the restrictions and limitations placed upon us by life. The positions of the captives represent the servants we can become to the limits and confinements of our personal habits, societal attitudes, cultural customs and religious beliefs. The limited light in the atmosphere of the cave is an analogy of the lack of understanding we accumulate or dismiss in relation to the mysteries of the universe and our place in it . This also applies to us as individuals in our pursuit of all that we can imagine and dream, but the light of wisdom is not seeking us, we must seek it. Because of this, we must come out of the darkness into the light of awakening with a stronger and clearer vision thus, a greater appreciation of all that we are and all that we can become. In the same vein of thought, here safe in the cave, inactivity is forced, fought but eventually met with inevitable and accustomed acceptance, which is the predictable way of all societal conformity. A note about the chains, in order to reach the light you must make an honest concerted effort to break away from the constraints holding you captive and trapped in the darkness, seeing only shadows of the real world. Acting upon your escape will not come easy, but then most things worth having seldom come to those who simply give-in and give-up. When confronting the concept of an escape which is a real life change, failing to plan equates to planning to fail!

The tunnel leading out into the great, light shining world can be a difficult path, although rewarding it can also prove to be threatening, dangerous and exhausting to any unwary traveler. As the old proverb declares, the road to success and happiness is also fraught with disaster and devastation, “It can make you or break you”, therefore let the traveler beware.

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The incorrect mindset on the exploration path to the main road of your reality may be met with a bitter, nasty finality that no man can survive and it’s generally better to be safe than sorry. It is usually true that hasty decisions without the proper forethought contain the necessary ingredients to produce everything but the desired resultant reaction, in other words: don’t be lazy in planning your journey in life because “you will reap what you sow.” Don’t be careless in your plans to reach your goals, do your homework, ponder, consider and work it out because you are the only one who can! Once you begin to see the light up ahead, shining ever brighter, prepare yourself for the unexpected force of the illuminating power and up until now, you never had the need to shield your vision. Approach with caution, be prepared, aware and look before you leap: all great advice which is usually overlooked or ignored … sometimes to our own detriment.

Upon the entrance into the new world, observe, question everything because now you’re in a new environment with which you are unaccustomed and unfamiliar, proceed carefully one step at a time. Foremost on the list of important issues is shelter, food, and water, a little company wouldn’t hurt either, remember that things and people aren’t always as they appear. Now in the light of this new, warm, abundantly rewarding world, there is much to learn and you will miss the people you left behind because they were too afraid to explore and to unmotivated to chase their dreams.


Now you know the purpose for which Plato penned this story and how the analogy applies to all people, in all places and at all times. There exist many places of captivity in this world, occupied by many kinds of people in many different locations, yet all caves just the same. Undoubtedly, a lifetime stay in there will surely destroy a person’s vision and result in the permanent incurable blindness of ageless regret.

A final analogical piece of the puzzle remains “food for thought” at this point, the reward offered the returning hero in the story from his fellow kind was, shall we say unexpected by our hero and it really must have been literally the last thing on his mind. Mankind has a proven the propensity to react with mindless violent behavior caused by “fear” toward anything which he does not understand or over which he has no control. The reality of the fear reaction becomes a flashing warning sign for all who would share the truths contained in Plato’s allegory with neighbors, coworkers, friends or family. Could the analogy of Plato’s cave be, the last thing on your mind? A slight bit gruesome perhaps, but nevertheless interestingly thought provoking. By the way, are you on your way out of the chains, exploring a path to a new world, approaching the exit into the light, learning to adapt already, or sitting there feeling alone, hopeless and helpless? Are you still blaming everything or somebody else for your present circumstances, dead but not yet buried, trapped in the cave? Nobody really plans to never amount to anything, yet some wait on the phone of life wasting precious time on terminal hold. Is there anyone out there?

Some days I just can’t get a handle on the general lackadaisical mist permeating the atmosphere over the enormously ugly, seething fungus of apathy, which seems to have constipated the thinking apparatus of mankind. The mental faculties of most people are occupied to capacity with the stagnant stress of unfulfilled dreams and aspirations. Mankind has become ever learning and never able to use his knowledge, for the lack of motivational fortitude fed by an ever increasingly negative attitude. Still sitting there bored, huh … how’s that cave life been working for you so far? Maybe you just need to go back to sleep for, oh say for the next twenty years or so, because things are bound to improve by then. After all, science is working on the cure for all the problems that can beset a human being. Issues including, but not limited to financial, social, economic, political, religious, emotional,physical and mental disorders, which according to scientific research are simply ruining our lives. Maybe we all should have a little faith in higher education and the honorable intentions of our fellow man, don’t ya think? I mean how else would we be able to enjoy the modern fruits of nuclear proliferation and the all inspiring wondrous proprieties of Biological (germ) Warfare, more powerful weapons that can kill thousands of people at once, not to mention the mass acceleration of hatred and intolerance which are growing stronger with every passing day. The last two named are mortal deadly enemies of all men, are purposely encouraged by governments, cultures, and mass media to create divisions among all people in order to prevent a common unity, which might result in an increase of serious thinking toward the improvement of the human condition. Well, probably not likely but a hopeful thought isn’t it?

You and I were or are trapped in “The Cave”, isn’t it about time for the silent majority to speak up and insist on being heard? Minding your own business doesn’t work, the shadows may feed you and supply your basic necessities, but the price they extract from us is long past the “Are you kidding me!” point. Understand, that there is a pronounced difference between ignorant, ridiculous and stupid. The point is that ignorance and ridiculous can be modified or repaired, but as some country folks say, “There just ain’t no fix for stupid”, which just about sums it up. Negativity and Stupidity are blood brothers, one is seldom recognized outside the company of the other and the fact is the thoughts of the mind are in total control of both. Where do you go from here, that’s the grand prize winning question, whereas the right answer could make you wealthy, happy and free, the wrong answer can leave you trapped in a deep, dark place, alone, depressed and imprisoned in the cave of your own mind. Better places to reside can certainly be imagined than the imprisoned confinement previously described, but that’s a personal choice we each have to make all by ourselves.


Here is a point to ponder in closing and the statement sounds so profound, ” Some will, some will try, fail and try again”. Failure is sad, but nothing is as sad as “Some never try and they will all fail, that without remedy”. Failure is not necessarily a finality unless you make it so. Some people must be struck by lightening, before they can notice that it’s cloudy, however, lightning strikes don’t happen inside many caves, so you’re probably safe in there … well, that  all depends on a vast expanse of variables doesn’t it?

Chuck

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