Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Plato’s Dialogs

When I was in sixth grade we had to make a notebook on Greece.
It consisted of our gleanings of Greek influences that we found around us right there in Decatur, Illinois in 1961.
What we discovered was that the impact of Greek thought was huge and mostly totally unnoticed.
Our houses used Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian columns to set off their doors.
Words in the Herald and Review Newspaper often were of Greek origin.
And on the radio came the name repeatedly of our States Attorney, Basil Greanias, father of Bill, a boy I went to school with.

We snipped and noted occurrences for months as we read aloud in class each day the Iliad and Odyssey.
Mastering the complex genealogy of those tales required that our readings be abruptly interrupted as each character appeared.
Someone would be called upon to stand and recite from memory things like, “Agamemnon: Son of Atreus, husband of Clytemnestra, brother of Menelaus.”

But, for all our studies of the Greeks, we were never told the allegory of Plato’s cave in which prisoner’s are bound so that they can only see the shadows cast upon the wall from a fire lit behind them.
They think that this is all there is and that the shadows are real.
And even if released and forced to turn around to see the fire and the puppets, they become bewildered and unhappy.
Only a few can bear to realize that the shadows are not real and undertake the journey towards liberation out of the cave into the real world.

Nor, were we told that if Plato wanted to use symbols from our time he would have replaced the cave with a movie theater and the shadows with the pictures on the screen.

Or that the cave is a metaphor for mind
and that outside of the cave is the pure, transcendental realm of what Plato called, the Good.

Nor, did I suspect that one day I would come to see for myself, that this world that we call real is nothing but a three dimensional projection of images upon an all pervading ocean "screen" of Nothingness.
And that the Ocean of Nothing is not only what is really Real
but also what is Good.

So a few weeks ago, as I sat in the library,
stunned motionless by the vagarities of love,
and my eyes fell upon Plato Unmasked, The Dialogues Made New,
something seemed
to slowly


Eventually I got up,
pulled the volume from the shelf
and returned with it back to my seat.

I flipped through the pages.
It felt good.
I could almost hear Piggy Bop and the Cat’s Meow running renditions of some of the dialogs.

So, Plato has been hanging round in the back of my mind for a while now.
And last weekend I returned once more to the library
resolved to take yet another look.

(Here’s a long PDF on Consciousness. For the Cave allegory, scroll to page 17.)

(Here’s a link to the UVa course on consciousness and source of the Plato stuff – looks interesting)

No comments: