“Let us affirm what seems to be the truth, that, whether one is or is not, one and the others in relation to themselves and one another, all of them, in every way, are and are not, and appear to be and appear not to be.”
Imagine this: You wake up in a dark room, a dim light illuminating from somewhere just out of view. Feeling around you find yourself in a bed, your arms strapped to the side for some unknown reason. No matter how much you struggle to break free, the bands confining your wrists do not break. As your eyes adjust to the light you notice the shape of an unknown figure standing at the foot of the bed.
Despite your best attempts to get a look at their face, the room is still too dark to make out any defining features. Again you struggle to break free, but alas, the bands still hold. Suddenly you notice an array of tubes and IV’s wrapped around your arms, pumping unknown fluids and substances into your veins. “You need our help,” they begin, “You’re going to hurt yourself.” The figure moves closer, now hovering at the side of the bed. They look to be a doctor, but their shadowy face is still shrouded behind a mask. Despite feeling fine, they begin to make adjustments to the machine in front of them. You try to speak but nothing comes out.
“It’s alright, we’ll take care of it,” they say. Your body growing heavier by the second, suddenly the urge to fight is no longer present in your mind.
“Go back to sleep.”
Against your better judgement, you do as they say.
You awake again some time later, the length of which irrelevant to the situation. This time the light in the room is on, the tubing is now missing, and the bands discarded. A quick look around reveals that the figure is gone as well, the coast clear to make your escape. As you get to your feet you feel that your legs are a bit shaky, similar to the way one feels when on a boat for far too long. Making your way down the hall you discover that it is lined with dark rooms similar to your own, each designated to a different prisoner.
Here you are offered a choice: You can take the time to attempt to save another individual before the mysterious figure returns, or you can find the exit and escape.
If you opt to save the individual within the room you will discover that, despite your best efforts, there is little to nothing you can do to help them. Those who you are able to wake up will be irritated that a stranger has interrupted their sleep with incomprehensible babble, while those who remain asleep will be unaware that you even visited them in the first place. Even if you want to help the other sleeping captives, unless you’re a trained medical personnel you cannot without any serious risk of hurting them.
If you opt to escape and find the exit, what do you do upon finding the entrance to the real world? Right now you are probably confused, and that’s okay. There is no wrong answer in this scenario.
Similar to our own situation, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave describes a group of prisoners chained to a cave wall as they are forced to watch a blank wall parallel to their own. As they gaze upon it, they are exposed to a variety of images cast by a group of puppet masters on a platform above them. Due to the fact that the individuals chained to the wall are constrained, they are forced to view the mirages from a fixed perspective. The puppet masters hold a range of images in front of a fire, warping them in a way that they may convince the prisoners below that what they see is true and real. Eventually, Plato speaks of a philosopher who is able to break free of the constrains of the puppet masters and who escapes the cave, going forth to see the world for what it truly is. So, going back to the scenario from earlier, are you someone who chooses to focus on the well being of those around you, or are you someone who focuses on the securing of your own well being?
Now, whereas Plato believes that the one who breaks free of their chains will be a philosopher, I do not think this is always the case. Although those who may have been the wise thinkers in ancient Greece were the few, the world is much more different in today’s day and age. I believe that if anyone takes the time to just open their eyes to the world around them they will realize what a strange and foreign place this can be. Now, not just anyone can do this. Many people will go blissfully unaware their entire life of the real workings of the world around them; pawns to the hidden players behind the scenes. These are the people in the hospital who were unable to wake up, not even aware that they were sleeping in the first place. Even if they were aware, knowing about something and understanding it are two very different things. For example, the individuals in the hospital who awoke in an irritable state can be better seen as anyone who is aware of the real workings of the world, but is unable to understand it or does not know how to act in response. When man is confused he becomes angry, facing his lack of understanding with fury. Honestly, one of the best examples I can think of to explain this would be 9/11.
If you’re like me, when someone mentions the phrase 9/11, one of two things immediately come to mind: they are either talking about a national tragedy and the tone is about to get much more serious, or someone is about to unload another of countless conspiracy theories. One thing is for sure that, no matter what you may think caused 9/11, it was a day that caused many of America to look in the mirror and go, “We need to wake up.” Those who did wake up were angry at the world around them, not sure how to make light of such a catastrophic event. Many were scared and confused as they now found themselves placed in a world they no longer recognized, while other looked for the first figure to point their finger at and place blame. No one knew what was true and what was false; that much is clear. Unfortunately, what the public perceives to be true, and what is actually true is often never the same thing.
I often read historical articles and wonder just how accurate they truly are. For example, lets say there are two individuals playing with a gun. If person A suddenly takes the gun and shoots person B, he will certainly go to jail. However if a third person, person C, comes forth and says it was out of self-defense and that person B was going to harm person A, suddenly history records the lie as the truth. Even if people know that person C is lying and that person A is the murderer, the an accurate depiction of the truth will most likely not be settled upon. Now, I understand that many more factors would go into the above situation, but it should be simple enough to get the point across. The true truth is often muddied and clouded by human intervention driven by our own emotions and self-interest, becoming what I’ll call the subjective truth. Going back to the hospital scenario, you could easily wake up, find the exit, and forget that you were ever there to begin with. You could say you woke up and were the only one there, or that you even tried to save someone but to no avail. Or you could get up, find the exit, figure out exactly what needs to be done, and return to help when the time is right.
So tell me, what will you do when you wake up?