Wisdom and folly
In the Allegory of the cave Plato is trying to explain the four stages in a humans life. The four stages include Imagination, Belief, Thought and Understanding. In the story it tells of how these men are chained down forced to face at a wall and are never allowed out of this cave. The only thing they see is a shadow from some statues behind them. When the one man is released he realizes that he had just imagined what life could be but then when he saw the fire he realized these imaginations were now beliefs.
As he was taken out into the world and allowed more freedom he realized that he could now create his own thought and with that had a full understanding of life. This is what Plato believed schools should try to teach us however it is not the case. This brings up the fundamental cultural assumption of unwise people live in a world of illusions. For the men in the cave, they knew no better than the shadows on the wall, this is the same for people who do not keep up with society. Humans who are uneducated, uncaring of political issues and people with no determination or drive cannot really achieve anything.
People with this lacking nature are just like the men in the cave, bound down and unable to see what the rest of the world looks like. ““To them,” I said, “The truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.”” (WLT, 340) These men knew of nothing else, but what they saw, is this how we live our lives? Knowing only what is in front of us, not realizing that the unknown, behind us, might possibly be real too? What is that unknown behind us and why do we try so hard to figure out what it is? These are questions I ask myself sometimes, trying to decide what I believe in. if there is a further thing out there that we must try to believe without seeing, a difficult task to accomplish. Another FCA that ties in nicely with this theme is how philosophers tend to be rich in virtue and wisdom rather than goals and glory.
A philosopher does not necessarily have to be a wise and thought provoking person, just a person who sees this life as a gift and values the mind they have rather than someone who is all about winning and splendor. But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong when they say that they can put knowledge into the soul which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes.” (WLT, 343) This idea of someone else putting this unknown knowledge into our minds is impossible, the only way that you can attain this knowledge for yourself is to believe and have an understanding for your own self and your surroundings. You also cannot do it alone, if you are self centered and only focused on your own self you will not see the beauty in other things.
When I played Hockey back in 2009 I was on a team of super stars yet none of them would ever pass the puck, they would try to do everything themselves to get the goal and have the satisfaction of achievement. This attitude burdened us and we lost the first five games of the year. When my coach sat us all down and told us how we need to work as a team and see the value of helping another person achieve something it completely changed us.
We had way more goals and assists and our team was happier together. In life, you cannot focus on yourself and what is right in front of you; you must look beyond that and see how valuable the worth of others and our universe truly is. “Last of all he will be able to see the sun, not turning aside to the illusory reflections in the water, but gazing directly at it in its own proper place, and contemplating it as it is”. (WLT, 341)
Nov 8th 2013
Confucius, one of the most well known philosophers, had many followers or disciples, as some people may call them, who followed him around learning from his every move and with every sentence he spoke, became wiser. Confucius had the gift of putting things into perspective. In His famous work ‘The Analects’ there are 20 books, that all talk about aspiring to be, in simple terms, a gentleman. This book however was not written by Confucius, but by his disciples. They wrote down everything he taught them and all his phrases and teachings and transformed them into book form. Confucius aimed to teach his disciples to understand the character of ‘chun tzu’, which means to be a superior man, one who is able to lead a nation or group of people. Confucius basically tells us that true wisdom comes from knowledge of our surroundings and of our own selves.
“The gentleman understands what is moral. The small man understands what is profitable. (III, 16)” (WLT, 453) This quote is directly related to the above FCA in that if a man is so focused on what he makes or how much power he has he will never truly understand life, he will just be distracted by all of its glory. Confucius says that a gentleman manifests himself in thoughts, words and actions. When I am out socializing or at a party and am conversing with strangers I can almost immediately tell what kind of person they are just by the way they talk. You can tell how proud they are, how egotistical, down to or far away from earth and if they are kind or not. This all happens from speech and their speech is usually derived from their intelligence.
Many people will try to put on an act of intelligence by pretending to know something they don’t or by simply over exaggerating their emotions and expressions to prove a point. Admittance of failure and acceptance of defeat is true knowledge. “II, 17: The master said, “Yu, shall I tell you what it is to know? To say you know when you know and to say you do not when you do not, that is knowledge”.” (WLT, 455) A true Gentleman can accept when he is wrong and admit when he does not know something, instead of putting on a weak mans mask and pretending to know it all. There have been times where I have been in stressful situations and am not able to answer correctly, especially in moments of intimidation.
One example from my life is whenever I talk to my Uncle he always questions how I am doing in school and what I’m doing to get ahead of everyone else and all those general questions adults ask kids. However sometimes I freeze up and do not know how to correctly answer him and then he grills me for not knowing and seems upset. Then, when I answer his every question perfectly, it is not good enough and I need to be doing more. In this situation I try to put on this mask of knowing what I’m doing because I know that if I accept defeat I will not get respect from my uncle. Being that superior man and standing up to him and telling him that I am not sure where my life is headed and what decisions I will be making in the near future is a tough barrier to overcome but as Tao says becoming a gentleman is the true path to righteousness.
Apuleius (The Golden Ass)
Nov 8th 2013
The Golden Ass is a tale of curiosity and an unappreciated view of life. It begins with a man, Apuleius, who is fascinated by sex and magic. One day as he is ‘courting’ with one of the servants he asks her to magically turn him into a winged owl, as this was one of his fantasies. The servant woman grabs what she thinks to be a lotion that will turn him into this majestic bird but clumsily makes the mistake of rubbing the wrong ointment on him; one hat turns him into a donkey (ass). The woman knows to reverse this magic he must eat roses but before she can bring the remedy back the guardsmen take him away. He must live this life of an ass until next spring when roses bloom once again. He is put through many trials and tribulations and is made fun of and picked on constantly. After 12 months he had almost given up and thus, he laid down to sleep. In his dream the goddess Isis appears to him and tells him if he changes his ways she will bring him the antidote.
He agrees, and then awakes and sure enough a high priest is carrying a bouquet of roses. He eats them and returns to manhood, he dedicates his life to serving the goddesses commands and achieves a life of knowledge. “When a man serves his lusts, he becomes a brute animal like the lowliest ass; when man turns toward the spirituality represented by Isis, he achieves his truly human form.” (WLT, 524) This reminds me a lot of my family, not the harshness of turning someone into a ridiculous animal, but the principal behind it. I was raised in a Christian home so I’ve been taught to never lust anything. It is unholy and unhealthy. Lust can create a lot of problems for a person, as seen by Apuleius. When he finally returns to human form he promises to change his life around. He then studies the teachings of Isis and her brother-husband, Osiris, and then follows in their footsteps.
He learns many new things and eventually becomes a Lawyer. When faced with life altering situations humans will do anything to retain their sanity. “You must wait for this sacred ceremony, with a mind that is neither anxious for the future not clouded with profane thoughts; and I shall order the high priest to carry a garland of roses in my procession, tied to the rattle which he carries in his right hand.” (WLT, 526) This is Isis act of mercy and is a challenge to Apuleius to turn around his life or spend the rest of it as an ass. Apuleius realizes he is not in a comprisable situation and is very thankful to the goddess.
We as a society are all in our own mindset and then something happens or comes along that completely flips our lives around. These situations that challenge our sanity and our behavior are the situations that help us grow as humans and educate us further than we could have ever believed. We are all so foolish and life’s situations give us strength to break out of our foolish selves and into an enlightened state of mind.a