Let me begin by trying to explain the differences between Socrates, the very well-known philosopher, and Plato, his student who I believe was smarter and easier to understand. Don't get me started on Aristotle because I'm not sharp enough to explain what is out of my field. Socrates never left any written documents, so anything we know about him comes from his students. We know this: ask the right questions to help others come to the right answers. Plato wrote a ton of stuff. Plato would write that the world is not as real or true as the individual's happiness, courage and right moral action.
Pick an average day of any politician and think about it. You are now a Socratic thinker and a Platonian actor. Or doer, if you like.
I am sure that you smart-alecky Georgia grads may take umbrage (oh, yeah) at my definitions, but they taught me at Marshall not to pay attention to anyone who lives north of West Virginia, or anyplace else come to think about it.
Plato's "Allegory of the Cave." Imagine a bunch of people who have lived their entire lives chained to the floor of a cave and can only look at the back wall. Behind these unfortunates is a bridge where people, animals or objects cross back and forth. Behind that bridge is a great fire and the light of that fire shines on those people and things crossing the bridge so their shadows are seen by those who are chained and can only see the shadows. Got this so far? OK. Reality, for those who are immobilized, is shadow and nothing more than assumption, imagination or lengthy debate.
Something happens! An individual escapes from his or her chains and turns around ... to see a light so bright that it hurts his — let's just use one pronoun — eyes so much that he must make a great effort to continue to look. As his eyes adjust, he is astonished by what he sees. He no longer looks at shadows but now is faced with reality and is forced to accept the truth of what he sees. Not only does he begin to understand what was only a reflection of truth, but he can begin to understand himself and wonder about his worth and that which created him.
So often, the world is content to accept what seems to be true and never realizes that there is so much to learn, so much to attempt, so much to discover, and the great risk that must be taken when truth replaces falsehood. Plato taught that when an individual discovers reality and tries to explain it to those who are still in chains, some may want to take his life because he dares to challenge that which is false and teach that which is true. I was once told, "Don't give me the facts. I'm not interested."
Sometimes I believe the world is chained and can't even try to make sense of the insanity of war, competition, struggle, hardship, loss — make your own list — and the only answers available are weak, incomplete, and so the world shouts, "Here I am! Is life no more than this? Who has an answer? I have given up. I can do no more. Please help me!"
The answer comes from a still small voice, "I am the way, the truth, the life and no one discovers the way but through me."
And the world replies, "You are the answer? There is nothing more, something we can do, or say or is required? Do you mean we must give up our fight and give in?"
And the still small voice continues, "For God so loved the world, for God so loved you..."
Some will turn away to face the comfort of the wall. Some will turn to the light.
Our chains are broken. Do we stay in the shadow?
God has given us the choice.