Monsters beyond the cave
In Plato’s allegory of the cave, shadows are mistaken for the truth, which lives beyond the walls. Beyond the cave dwell creatures of beauty, a journey through knowledge and discovery, and internal awakening. However, parallel to these elements, those who escape the cave are also prey to the reality of their fears, challenges, and the claws of pain. Outside the cave we are vulnerable beings, victim to the unpredictable nature of life, the inevitable troubles that teach us pain and the reality of what scares us most, being thrust into the oblivion – but how do we know we have truly left the cave? I think it may be through recognizing the illusion of truth created by the shadows, the discovery of reality that takes root in the awareness of the cave’s protection, and the possibility of further discovery beyond its walls.
In my childhood, I knew only the walls of the cave, my parents believed in preserving my innocence for as long as they possibly could. I believed I was safe within the cave, protected from pain and other monsters who roamed beyond these familiar walls. My journey out of the cave began prematurely, but I believe it happened naturally, and it wasn’t preventable because I could not be protected from pain when it was born from the shadows on the wall, the images projected from my own perception of truth, which began to gnaw at my innocent view of the world. My parents were going through a divorce at the time and I began to feel the growing distance between them as I would catch a glimpse of their tears and pretended I saw nothing, this was when I first felt pain drawing me out of the cave. I believed I was leaving the cave behind because this recognition of pain seemed unfamiliar within the walls, and it changed my perception of the shadows.
I felt liberated from a truth built in fantasy when I found reality waiting outside, pain that I found beyond the cave and adopted. I felt protected from everything within those walls, and I often found myself returning to the cave, to the space where I felt satisfied with the shadows and the illusion of truth and the imaginary paradise in the comfort of those walls. I think it’s important for us to allow reality to draw us in and taste the truth, knowing that a cave exists in the absence of truth and the presence of dancing shadows, which will continue to remind us where we grow from, through our exposure to reality and how it shapes us.
When I left the cave I grew familiar with the emotional pain I feared so much, and I no longer perceived it as a monster but as an important and accepted part of my life, it taught me strength and the importance of love and it continues to teach me about reality and identity. We continue to grow through challenges and emerge with the experience of adapting to change, being open to the idea that change is inevitable and that our response is what affects our growth.