a shadow of my former self
January 25, 2009 Leave a comment
So I started reading Plato…
There are only three reasons that anyone (that is not being instructed to do so by his or her college professor) would start reading Plato.
One is because it provides useful and meaningful answers for the intellectual, moral, and practical problems of contemporary life.
Two is because it provides tools to make fundamental decisions about how to think, how to act, and how to live one’s life.
Three is because they enjoy having to read the same paragraph 617 times just so that they can spend the next 2 hours trying to figure out what the heck the previous paragraph meant.
Today I read the Allegory of the Cave. This is a story about a hypothetical situation of a group of dudes who have lived chained in a cave all of their lives, facing a cement movie screen used for shadow puppets. The people watch as others cast shadows by passing in front of the cave entrance where there is a marshmallow toasting pit, and begin to give names to the shadows, as would anyone THAT bored. According to Plato, the shadows are as close as the prisoners ever get to seeing reality (Similar to some forms of home schooling). He then explains how a philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from that cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the hand shaped bunnies and duckies that were casted before him.
I know, I know…Fascinating…Enthralling…Mesmerizing!
Don’t worry, what I am about to write about has much less to do with WHAT Plato was writing about than it does HOW it is written. You see, as mind numbingly boring as that story could have been, it actually kept my attention because of the efforts of a slightly lesser known character named Glaucon. Glaucon, son of Ariston, was the philosopher Plato’s older brother. He is primarily known as a major conversant with Socrates in the Republic and the questionnaire during the Allegory of the Cave. (And I am pretty sure that he invented “pull my finger“. The word is that Plato used to fall for it every time… boys will be boys.)
You see this is the part that really intrigued me. (The part BEFORE the fart joke)
This story could not be written as effectively without the interaction of Glaucon. This story might not have been as meaningful if it were not for Glaucon’s questions. This story may not have taken on an effective shape if it were not for Glaucon’s puzzling stare. It was as if Plato’s “understanding” was spawned by Glaucon’s “inquisitiveness.” The brothers actually played off of each other to come up with an agreed upon perspective of the discussion that day and they were both better off because of it.
That scenario made me think about my wife.
As the both of us do life together I know that there are countless scenarios that have shaped our relationship as we know it. But what made these experiences so memorable was that we did them together. One of us in the role of Plato, and the other is Glaucon. The situation would dictate who the “understanding teacher” was: and who the “inquisitive student” was, but you get my point. The most important thing was that both parties showed admiration for the other by doing it together.
This sounds simple, but it isn’t sometimes….is it?
As a teacher, it isn’t always easy to find the patience to explain things. It is and always convenient to talk things through. It can be frustrating trying to help someone “get it.”
As the student, it is and always easy to open your mind. It is and always convenient to rethink your perspective. It can be frustrating to listen to someone’s conflicting point of view.
We just have to keep our mind on the payoff.
I truly believe that the primary reason for growth in my life are attributed to the simple fact that I have experienced it WITH my wife. The fondest memories I have, as I look back on the days spent as husband and wife, are the ones that depicted us working through stuff together and gaining a better understanding of each other’s perspective while coming to a conclusion that we never could have reached as individuals. The reason why our relationship continues to grow is because, like the “know-it-all” brothers, we understand that we tell a better story “together” than we ever could “apart“.
So here’s my challenge to you.
Instead of trying live a life with an “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” attitude; try living with the “Presence makes the soul grow stronger” perspective. And instead of wasting time practicing being apart from each other, enhance your life stories by spending as much time as you can trying to figure “stuff” out together.
…with, no excuses…
and when you think it’s too hard tp talk to a spouse because they think they know everything, just remember Glaucon and his challenges speaking to someone who actually did!