Monday, February 2, 2009

Plato's Retreat

¡Hola! Everybody...
News flash to the Neocons (and Obama): Insanity is doing the same actions (tax cuts for the wealthy) and expecting different results. Go to rehab!


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“If a man neglects education, he walks lame to the end of his life.”

-- Plato (c.427–347 BC)

To paraphrase a great man, I believe that the unexamined life – a life in which nothing is questioned or examined – is a life not worth living. Life is the most precious gift we have and we all take it for granted to varying degrees. I was fortunate in that my father instilled within me a love for knowledge. I have an insatiable curiosity that has been the source of constant enjoyment in my life. This love for knowledge is a value I have attempted to instill in my son.

One day, when he was about eight years of age, we were watching some martial arts movie and I mentioned to him that Steven Seagall couldn’t hold a candle to Bruce Lee. We rented some Bruce Lee movies and he got the “Kung Fu bug.” At various times during my life (beginning at age 12), I have studied the martial arts under several teachers, mostly in the Wing Chun style (which was Bruce Lee’s first art). So I made a pact with my son: we would study together under a sifu (teacher) I knew, but he had to commit to be come a “scholar-warrior.”

The “Scholar-Warrior” is an archetype that appears in most cultures throughout history: the samurais, the knights, the Buddhist monks, and nuns of China, etc. The Scholar-Warrior learned not only the martial arts, but also the fine arts of poetry and painting, and music; and they learned the healing arts. Scholar-Warriors were well-rounded individuals who represented the best of their culture.

My son fell for it, hook, line, and sinker… LOL! He and I (along with my wife at the time) studied the martial art of Wing Chun for several years. As part of that training, we learned many things: reiki, chi exercises, knowledge of herbs, healing arts, etc.

The following is one of the first lessons I taught my son after he took the “Vow of the Scholar-Warrior”...

-=[ Plato’s Allegory of the Cave ]=-

Plato is considered one of the most important intellectual figures in Western history. He was the founder of the first university, “The Academy,” where students read the Socratic dialogues. The essence of Plato’s philosophy is demonstrated in the allegory of the Myth of the Cave, which appears in his work, The Republic.

In this myth, Plato proposes the following vision: Imagine prisoners chained in such a way that they face the back wall of a cave. They have been there for life and can see nothing of themselves or of each other. They see only shadows on the wall of the cave.

The shadows are caused by a fire that burns on a ledge above and behind them. Between the fire and the prisoners is a path lined with a wall along which people carrying vases, statues, and other artifacts on their heads. The prisoners hear the echoes of voices and see the shadows of the artifacts, and they mistake those echoes and shadows for reality.

The point of the allegory is that our purpose in life is break free of those chains and venture out of the cave into the open in order to experience reality. That “steep and rugged ascent” is Plato’s allegory of education and leads us out into the real world of sunlight and knowledge where we can truly gaze upon the sun (the sun being the allegory of enlightenment).

Plato suggests that if such a man were to attempt to return to the cave and liberate the other prisoners, they would set upon him and kill him. The allegory of the cave, with its story of the liberation of the prisoner from darkness, deceit, and untruth and the ensuing hard journey into the light and warmth of the Truth has inspired many philosophers and social leaders. But Plato meant this allegory as more than mere poetic vision. He used this work, to give it a precise, technical application. Within this application, he was able to offer a map in which opinion and knowledge are clearly marked.

However, that would take too long right now and I need to get dressed and go to work! LOL!



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