A Fool’s Guide to Hope, Part 1: Can You Free Yourself from Plato’s Cave?

I, i Thunder and lightning. Enter the WYRDES stirring cauldron. A past vision arises in mists produced by cauldron’s boiling liquid. Metal musicians A Band of Orcs live performance. A mosh pit engulfs the club. Large orc growls at the crowd.

GOGOG (Lead Vocalist): …Shadows on the wall; world which you see–Illusion! Out beyond the Cave, so much more to see. Wide open!

GRONK! & CRETOS (Background Vocals): Gave up your life! Gave up your death! Gave up your everything, when you acquiesced!

GOGOG (Lead Vocalist): All you see in this cave is a lie! Smoke and flames and shadows to hide the burning world that waits outside. The only truth: take back your life!

[Vision of A Band of Orcs and the crowd’s circle pit fades as WRITER and READERS Enter. Exuent Wyrdes.]

READER2: What is it with you and orcs?

WRITER: [Smiles.] How are you? I’ve been deep-diving into rabbit-holes again. The worldwide response to this whole virus situation should have us all thinking–

READER1: [Sings.] “–A dangerous passtime–“

WRITER: [Smiling, sings back.] “–I know!”

Image Source: Wikipedia
Plato.: Roman copy of a portrait bust by Silanion for the Academia in Athens (c. 370 BC)

That A Band of Orcs’ song sounds a lot like Plato’s Cave to me.

READER1: [Frowns.] Okay, so what’s with “Plato’s Cave?” Isn’t Plato that dog in the Micky Mouse cartoons?

WRITER: [Laughs out loud] No, that’s Pluto! Although, the planet Pluto is in some interesting relationships for these interesting times. No, I’m speaking of what philosophers sometimes refer to as “Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.”

READER2: I don’t think Pluto is a planet anymore.

WRITER: How interesting. More data came in and NASA or whoever is in charge of these things changed the classification of Pluto. That’s what we shall be doing in this series of posts! Acquiring knowledge so we can perhaps change our mental classifications of certain phenomena. Anyway, Pluto isn’t today’s topic, Plato’s Cave is, so let’s get to it!

READER1&2: Let’s!

Plato is an important figure in Western Philosophy. He used an argument technique called dialectic, popularized Socrates, and gave us the Socratic dialogue; to which I pay homage at this blog (though I include, rather than exclude, the subjective).

[Tips hat to READERS]

His most famous dialogue is the Republic. He argued for his ideal form of Government — a Republic run by “Philosopher-Kings,” that is, the educated elite. He includes a parable describing the societal condition in which the common man and woman exist. Today, that means YOU and me. It’s not a flattering picture. It is, though, a very apt metaphor, er, allegory. You should read the Republic someday. In the meantime this wonderful (and short) animation summarizes the plot and will help you visualize the point. I hope it will help strengthen your discernment muscle a bit, too.

Plato’s Cave (Animated Version)

READER1&2: [Watch animation immediately.]

WRITER: Quoth the raven:

“For how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads…?”

–from above mentioned Plato’s Cave (animated version)

READER1: [Stares at screen; doesn’t move head]

READER2: [Also stares at screen; not moving head; then scratches head]

WRITER: Okay, you watched that, right? This post won’t make much sense unless you do. It’s an important part of your Western Civilization knowledge regardless of my or anyone else’s conclusions.

[Those readers that skipped the video now go back and watch it.]

READER1: Okay, we watched it. Now what?

WRITER: Now, imagine this! Plato is a practicing Meta-Physician; a doctor diagnosing the “Meta” causes of society’s ills.

READER2: Haha, funny visual–I see a dude in a toga with a white beard, a laurel corona, and a stethoscope kneeling over a large crowd of people.

WRITER: [Laughs out loud.] In the Republic, Dr. Plato uses his philosophical bedside manner to explain to the weakened and sleeping public the metaphysical cause of their malady.

READER1: Which is…?

WRITER: “…Paying mental rent to corporate presidents,” to quote the P.E. song He Got Game. Anyway, that’s my take on it. For his part, Plato describes a situation, akin to factory farmed animals, where the occupants of the Cave have been chained, leg and neck, so that the only things they can see are their own shadows. Oh, and a parade of shadows cast by people carrying various objects in front of a large bonfire at the back of the Cave. They have never had the ability to turn their heads and glimpse who and what is actually behind them. So the shadows on the wall are the only reality the occupants have ever known.

READER1: Haha, like a primitive movie projector back in the day!

READER2: Oh, and the cave wall is the ancient Greek version of a movie theater screen!

WRITER: [Laughs] Yes! However, this isn’t a movie anyone chose to see. Remember, the Cave theater owners have chained the spectators to their chairs and shackled their necks so they can only stare at the wall.

READER2: Man, that’s f’d up. Wait, are you saying that’s what’s happening to us now with these stay at home orders?

READER1: That reminds me of that line from the Immortal Technique song. What is it? “Since you were born we control what you watch and you read!” Sorry, go on.

WRITER: All good–I dig Immortal Technique! Plato diagnosed the metaphysical position of the so-called “Conspiracy Theorist,” Bodhisattva, and/or the whistleblower, too. You see, Plato explains: if a freed slave were to return to the gloomy theater from the sunlit world, his vision at first would be distorted as his/her eyes readjusted to the darkness of the Cave. And because of his sunlight-blasted, distorted vision, the occupants would ridicule him for not seeing “clearly.” They would tell him that he should never have left the Cave in the first place, for look what his ascent into the light has done to his ability to dwell in darkness!

Further, if he attempted to liberate prisoners from their neck and leg constraints, their moving after having been chained for so long would hurt. They would have weak muscles and stiff joints. Upon being unchained and exposed to the light their senses would scream in overload. The occupants of the Cave would blame their liberator for their pain.

READER1: That’s how I feel when the sun streams through my window first thing in the morning. I hiss at it like a vampire. [Throws up his arms and hisses.]

WRITER: [Laughs out loud] And, yet, the sun has life-giving properties such as photosynthesis in plants, or the absorption and function of vitamin D in humans.

READER1: Yeah, I guess I never thought of it that way. Man, if it’s so good for you, why does it hurt like hell in the morning?

WRITER: Ha! Well, Hell is not a place on earth, or beneath the ground, it is experiencing the Truth unveiled and having to deal with the shock of the Light. That shock is followed by the consequent moral obligation to do something about it, once known. It is this result, I believe, that causes people to prefer their imprisonment in the Cave.

READER2: Isn’t that called, like, cognitive dissonance, or something?

WRITER: Well, this is wikidpedia’s definition of it:

In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance occurs when a person holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values, or participates in an action that goes against one of these three, and experiences psychological stress because of that. According to this theory, when two actions or ideas are not psychologically consistent with each other, people do all in their power to change them until they become consistent.[1] The discomfort is triggered by the person’s belief clashing with new information perceived, wherein they try to find a way to resolve the contradiction to reduce their discomfort.[1][2]

–Wikipedia

Plato’s conclusion is that the occupant is likely to turn on his or her would-be liberator and kill him–the cognitive dissonent’s “way to resolve” or end their own suffering.

READER1: So Hell is cognitive dissonance?

READER2: Why would he try and kill someone who is trying to help him?

WRITER: I have a martial arts’ student who is a former Navy Search and Rescue swimmer. Part of his S.A.R. training, he says, is learning how to grapple underwater and restrain the person you’re trying to rescue, because that drowning person is in a state of fight or flight, fear and panic. Their terrifying situation has rendered them incapable of making rational decisions. They are fighting for their lives at a primal level. Taking it back to our newly liberated occupant of the Cave, he takes the shock of the light as an attack. The aggressive reaction is somewhat justifiable but no less tragic.

Are you with me so far?

READER1: Man, what you’re saying reminds me of that Rage Against the Machine song, Wake Up!

“He gave the power to the have nots–and then came the shot!”

–Rage Against the Machine, Wake up, from the eponymous album

WRITER: Well, what you and RAtM are saying there is related to Plato’s point, but also differs slightly. Plato says the Cave occupants turn on their would-be liberators. But who is it that shoots the would-be liberators in the Rage Against the Machine song?

READER1: Not the Cave occupants!

WRITER: That’s right. Not the Cave occupants. It’s the Theater owners WHO don’t want the Fourth Wall to come down and ruin the play for you. Thank you, for bringing that up, because I think it’s a nice segue into our etymology of the day.

government. n. [OFr. governement: see GOVERN & -MENT]

–Websters New World Dictionary of the American Language, (c) 1980

In plain English, we get our word from Old French. We are instructed to see the morphemes GOVERN and -MENT.

govern vt. [ME. governen < OFr. gouverner < L. gubernare, to pilot (a ship), direct, guide < Gr. kybernan, to steer, govern]

–Websters New World Dictionary of the American Language, (c) 1980

Govern comes from Middle English governen. The Normans gave us the Old French, gouverner. Those crazy French Vikings got their word from Latin gubernare, where it meant what the helmsman of a ship does: pilot or steer it. That word, in turn, came to the Romans from the Greek kybernan, where it also meant ‘to pilot or steer’ as well as ‘to govern.’

Next we examine the suffix:

-ment [ME. < OFr. < L. -mentum] a n. -forming suffix meaning: 1. a result or product [improvement, pavement] 2. a means, agency, or instrument [adornment, escapement] 3. the act, fact, process, or art [movement, measurement] 4. the state, condition, fact, or degree [disappointment]

–Websters New World Dictionary of the American Language, (c) 1980

So, those Old French Vikings also gave us the productive morpheme -ment from the Latin -mentum, ‘state or condition of.’ Let’s look at the word mental too, even if just on the basis of its homophonic relationship to -ment and -mentum .

mental adj. [ME. < MFr. < LL. mentalis < L. mens (mentis), MIND]

–Websters New World Dictionary of the American Language, (c) 1980

We’re instructed to look at mind.

mind. n. [ME., mynde < OE., (ge)mynd, memory < IE. base, *men-,- to think, whence Gr. menos, spirit, force, L. mens, mind] 1. memory, recollection, remembrance

–Websters New World Dictionary of the American Language, (c) 1980

Could it be the Latin form mentum from which we get the suffix -ment is related to Latin form mens and mentis from which we get mental? Is it possible the IndoEuropean root *men-, ‘to think,’ gives rise to both mental and -ment? We’ll let an expert in Latin answer that definitively. For my part I find it interesting that Indo European*men- also gives us the Greek word menos, meaning ‘spirit,’ or ‘force.’ Could a ‘state or condition’ as well as ‘a means or agency’ be a bit like a ‘spirit’ or ‘force?’

READER2: Okay, so what’s your point?

WRITER: In the wyrd way we like to view things around here, don’t you see a connection between steering the mind or piloting the ship of the mind, or state, and the activity of government? In other words, in some sense might we say that Government = mind control?

READER2: Wow. Just wow. Don’t you think that’s a stretch?

READER1: Yeah.

WRITER: And is it also possible those head-chaining controllers, the owners of the Cave Theater, to whom Plato refers have been honing their craft scientifically, methodologically, and technologically ever since? devising more and better ways to keep our heads shackled and our eyes fixed to the shadows on the wall?

READER1: Why wouldn’t they?

READER2: Come on man!

WRITER: I think it’s a fair question.

READER1: So, we’ve been prisoners of the owners of the Cave Theater since we were born? Is that what you’re saying?

WRITER: We should consider the possibility.

READER1: And they use the chains and the shadows as ways of steering the ships of our minds?

WRITER: Again, shouldn’t we consider the possibility?

Gustav Dore illustration from my coffee table book
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, authored by
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

READER1: Okay, so if the bonfire at the back of the cave and the shadows on the wall are like a movie theater, we can also extend the metaphor to include television, radio, cellphones, internet and all that, right? So, you’re also saying the media is the government?

WRITER: No, I’m not saying that. But speaking of Immortal Technique, in the song 4th Branch, he IS saying that media is the 4th Branch of Government.

READER1: Oh, so not the government itself, but a branch or tool of government.

READER2: Yeah, but there are private media companies too. And I use social media to try and persuede people of my opinions, and I’m not the government.

WRITER: Point taken and that brings me to what I am actually saying:

To me, Government is whatever you allow to steer the Ship of your Mind, or whatever the citizenry allow to steer the Ship of State. That includes artists, musicians, the media, corporations, actual government organizations, the church, the opinions of experts real or imagined, your friends, your family, your enemies and their propaganda. Anything, anyone and everyone that you allow to have undue influence over your own mind when you don’t feel like doing the work, or doing the heavy lifting of steering your own ship, of being your own helmsman, of using your discernment, of being your own Governor.

READER2: So what does all this have to do with the title of this post?

WRITER: Well, I’m a Fool (0). I’m trying to guide us to some hope for humanity. I’m hoping that if more people understand Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, then likewise we can admit the possibility that we’re all prisoners of it. I’m hoping maybe by recognizing our psychologocial imprisonment, we can together start to devise a way to escape!

READER2: You’re so negative.

WRITER: [Laughs out loud.] I don’t view the search for Truth as negative.

READER2: Who says you have the Truth?

WRITER: Not me! I’m saying that since we’ve all had our necks and legs chained in this Cave since birth, and have been watching a shadow-puppet show, we perhaps need to free ourselves, or allow some of those others who are trying to free us to have their say. I said we need to search for Truth, not blindly accept what we’re told.

READER2: Like who? Who’s trying to free us? What are we being told that’s wrong?

WRITER: Oh, don’t worry, we’ll be getting into that in subsequent posts. At any rate, I finally allowed some READERs and close friends to convince me my blog posts are too long, so I’ve limited myself to 3,000 words per post. That means more are coming, as I had to break this gargantuan dialogue down into several parts.

READER1: Thank you, I appreciate that!

WRITER: You’re welcome! As far as answers go, George Carlin provides the only real beginning of any solution.

I’ll see you back here for Part 2 in a few days! If you like to prepare for that discussion, watch this video on the psychology of power.

Video Playlist

*Collected Links in order at the end of this post

[Thunder. Lightning. Enter the Wyrdes. Stirring Cauldron as bubbles boil up from the broth. Visions of various metal bands in concert are seen and heard in the bubbles…

BRUCE DICKINSON :

“…I see the ghosts of navigators but they are lost. As they sail into the sunset they’ll count the cost. As their skeletons accusing emerge from the sea, the sirens of the rocks, they beckon me…”

–Iron Maiden, The Ghost of Navigator,from the album Brave New World

RONNIE JAMES DIO:

“…And as we sail along, I never fail to be astounded by the things we’ll do for promises and a song…”

–Dio, All the Fools Sailed Away, from the album Dream Evil

GRONK! & CRETOS (Background Vocals):

You have a choice–give up or fight. This is your time–now fight for your life!

GOGOG (Lead Vocalist):

All you see in this cave is a lie! Smoke and flames and shadows to hide the burning world that waits outside. The only truth: take back your life!

–A Band of Orcs, Of Broken Chains and Shattered Skulls, from the album Adding Heads to the Pile

[Bubbles pop and fade.]

WYRD1: [Stirring cauldron.] By the mixing of my grue churning broth these words come true! This link click, Do it quick!

WYRD2: If this project seems joyous to you, make sure you subscribe to social media, too. Below, you will find it, so don’t miss anything!

WYRD0: Like, share, subscribe to a platform or two, so the Words are Wyrd blog’s known the whole world through!

ALL: We live to take flights of fancy with you and explore the idea that Words are Wryd too!

[Exuent, the three Wyrdes]

A Fools Guide to Hope, Part 1: Can You Free Yourself From Plato’s Cave? links list

  1. Of Broken Chains & Shattered Skulls, by A Band of Orcs, from the album Adding Heads to the Pile, https://abandoforcs.bandcamp.com/track/of-broken-chains-shattered-skulls
  2. Every Company Disney Owns: A Map of Disney’s World Wide Assets https://www.titlemax.com/discovery-center/money-finance/companies-disney-owns-worldwide/
  3. Pluto’s Meaning in Astrology https://www.liveabout.com/plutos-meaning-in-astrology-206366
  4. Coronavirus Astrology Forecast 2020 | True Sidereal Astrology https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jAAmLC-7jI&t=3s
  5. Who was Plato? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plato
  6. What is Dialectic? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic
  7. Who was Socrates? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socrates
  8. What is Socratic Dialogue? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socratic_dialogue
  9. What is Discernment? https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discernment
  10. Plato’s Cave (animated version) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2afuTvUzBQ
  11. He Got Game, by Public Enemy, from the album He Got Game https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjzYFHjO6hc
  12. Rich Man’s World, by Immortal Technique from the album The Martyr https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pc985fd3uLE
  13. What is a Bodhisattva? Various defintions https://www.google.com/search?q=bodhisattva&rlz=1C1ASUT_enUS467&oq=Bodhisattva&aqs=chrome.0.0j46j0l6.1624j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
  14. What is a whistleblower? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whistleblower
  15. What is Photosynthesis? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosynthesis
  16. Vitamin D & the Upper Respiratory Tract https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmDng_uMCnY&t=1146s
  17. Vitamin D, Sunshine, Optimum Health: Putting It All Together https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9SNfrE7P1s
  18. Wake Up, by Rage Against the Machine, from the eponymous album https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZKu83NA5VY
  19. What is the WHO? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Health_Organization
  20. Fourth Wall, various defintions https://www.google.com/search?q=the+fourth+wall+meaning&rlz=1C1ASUT_enUS467&oq=the+fourth+wall&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l2j46j0l4.8098j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
  21. What is a Morpheme in linguistics? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morpheme
  22. What is a Productive Morpheme in linguistics https://www.quora.com/What-is-morphological-productivity
  23. What is a Homophone?  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homophone
  24. The 4th Branch, by Immortal Technique , from the album Revolutionary Vol. 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ffxUT7Puf0
  25. What is the Ship of State metaphor? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_State
  26. George Carlin, “Question Everything?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo-QIY7ys-k
  27. Rule from the Shadows, the Psychology of Power, part 1 by Storm Clouds Gathering https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8ERfxWouXs&list=PLK59fE6CuA2S63vUsAKP-tIZCjSXngVgD&index=19&t=676s
  28. The Ghost of the Navigator, by Iron Maiden, from the album Brave New World https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4nWJhGeR6M
  29. All the Fools Sailed Away, by Dio, from the album Dream Evil https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pq330xEyTuY