Allegory of life: build a great future by avoiding these mistakes 

Can you identify someone in your circle who disrupts conformity and completely disregards it? These are the kind to keep close to you, lest you die before living. 

By Brenda Viola

Many people keep preaching about how good it is to be predictable. In most cases, society’s perception of what is deemed acceptable, beautiful, creative, and godly among many societal standards, squeezed the life out of my soul. One day, I wondered why mother and her friends would relentlessly remind me of my inevitable path towards marriage. 

My friends on the other hand, had no objections to this fate. In fact, they anticipated walking down the aisle to the man of their dreams and embracing the roles of a devoted housewife. But, at some point, I dreaded the thought of my mum waiting for a marriage ceremony when I turn 25 and children at 30. 

Divergence quickly became my salvation and an opportunity to preserve my sense of individuality amidst the heard of sheep I found myself in. Some of my family members would say, “Brenda doesn’t enjoy socializing.” My antisocial behavior is on another level. Watching others engage in activities provides much entertainment.

I once mustered the courage to ask my mother why she always encouraged me to spend time with people. I am a darling of animals such as cows, donkeys, chickens, and goats. You may love kids – I call them little monsters with pretty faces. But I feel much uneasy when surrounded by children. I have actively avoided people who are always around kids.

“No one is an island, not even you, Brenda,” a friend once told me, sighing and returning her focus to a plate of roasted yam. I gave in, it was time to make friends with humans.

In my adulthood, nothing has changed. In fact, I find myself reverting back to my initial ways of guarding my solitude and avoiding conformity. I do so without any fuss. When I first encountered Plato’s book, “The Republic,” and specifically, his allegory of the cave, I immediately connected with the idea of being different from the rest of society. 

The allegory’s depiction shows people in the cave completely dazed by the shadows on the wall, believing that it represents the entire reality. One of them suddenly realizes that they are just shadows created by the fire above, and behind them. After exploring his curiosities, Plato found that certain puppet masters meticulously controlled the narrative depicted on the walls, shaping the perceived reality of the masses. The path above ground lay behind them, leading to the awakening of the real world with its various elements of life and nature. Plato teaches that the individual will return to the caves to inform others about the existence of a real world outside. The person would be blinded by darkness, unable to comprehend anything else, and no one would believe him. It may appear that they have gone insane.

I found resonance in Plato’s teachings because when I explained my preference for solitude over company, my reasons were met with the same judgment as the words of an abnormal character. As though a busybody, I delighted in the observation of people getting lost in their own worlds, consumed by money, family, religion, hopes, dreams, nightmares, fears, and more. A majority of individuals fail to notice the significant differences in the next person’s world, begging the question; how often do people live in different realities while sharing the same world, family, house, and bed? 

Many people fail to consider this and remain trapped in their worlds. Charles Bukowksi once said that, at first, the world will ask you who you are. Believe it or not, if you don’t know who you are, the world will tell you. More often than not I reflect on the assertion and toss queries such as; who am I? Any answer derived from thought alone would be limited by the mind’s perceptions, making it an inadequate means of understanding one’s true self. Take a moment to reread the sentence and let it sink in. 

Essentially, understanding oneself and engaging with the world requires alternative ways of self-discovery and experiencing the vastness of reality beyond the confines of the mind. This process is akin to emerging from Plato’s cave and entering the real world.

Ideal society

In “The Republic,” Plato depicts an ideal society where the rulers are those who have emerged from the cave and awakened to a new world. They are leaders because they have experienced the real world, one that is not manipulated by puppet masters. They can utilize their experience to lead society out of the cave. It is in their nature to resist systems that promote conformity and uniformity, and instead seek out systems that support and nurture society and the environment. And, they will continue to lead the way in creating systems that promote values aligned with nature and do not oppress one another. But there is a catch. Such individuals are not interested in leadership roles and do not seek power. Plato, for instance, abandoned his political career to embark on a philosophical journey of exploration and teaching.

He argues that individuals who desire and seek power are the least suitable leaders for a nation. That, alone made me chuckle, and think about Kenya. Currently, President William Ruto seems to be facing strong opposition from the opposing party and widespread discontent among Kenyans. Major towns are now frequently filled with screams, cries, and protests as citizens demand improved living conditions and tax reforms. Kenyans are wailing. 

Azimio leader Raila Odinga, lead protests demanding the current regime to do the ‘right thing’ by reducing cost of living and taxes, which are currently unsustainable. I can’t help but wonder whether Kenyans are pressing the right buttons. The opposition leader has run for the highest office in the country at least five times. During one of those, the country experienced the worst political violence. Reflecting on it, I couldn’t help but chuckle because once again, Plato’s words prove to be timeless.

Plato believed that it is the responsibility of teachers and masters, like himself, to identify those in society who have become aware of the true nature of the world and persuade them to assist the rest of society. This was the foundation for starting his mystery school, following his time under the guidance of philosopher Socrates. However, that was in the distant past. What relevance does it have to the present? 

If you are not swayed, it may be time to break away from the monotony of everyday life and embark on a journey of self-discovery. Only then will you be able to broaden your perspective and see beyond your own experiences. Imagine stepping back a few meters to fully appreciate and see the entire mural on a wall. Perhaps, you will gain a broader perspective. Don’t worry, I’ll still tell you. No need to stress.

The teachings of Plato are relevant today because, like Christ’s teachings, or Christianity, if you like, they are timeless. Given our colonial history, it is likely that you are more familiar with Christianity. Plato lived at least five centuries before Christ. I digressed, my mistake.

The fire in the allegory represents the sun, while the wall symbolizes the reality we experience when we are awake. Puppet masters control the shadows that shape our reality, influencing everything from peaceful protests to poverty, faith, violence, and more. 

It is time emerge from the cave, awaken, and realize that nothing outside of ourselves is real. Even quantum scientists acknowledge that the amount of space in our world surpasses the amount of matter, emphasizing the importance of considering the broader perspective. Ascending to higher consciousness and entering the world of awakening aligns with the way our ancestors lived. It is a path that leads us to understanding and transcendence.

Can you identify someone in your circle who disrupts conformity and completely disregards it? These are the kind to keep close to you, lest you die before living.   

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