THE LONELINESS OF ENLIGHTENMENT

The cost of enlightenment is often the support of your fellow men. The path to discovery is often a lonely road. For we are all prisoners to our limited understanding and skeptics by nature to those who might show us a new way.

Behold! Human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning their heads around.

Above and behind them is a fire blazing a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.

Do you see the prisoners?

Do you see the fire?

Do you see the raised way?

Do you see the wall?

Behold, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall. Some of the men are speaking. Others are silent. Do you see these things?

Do you see the prisoners?

And what of the prisoners? What do they see?

Do they not see only shadows? Shadows of the figures hoisted by the men behind the wall. Shadows of vessels. Shadows of statues. Shadows of wood, stone, and other materials. Only shadows.

Do you see the prisoners?

And what of the prisoners? What do they hear?

Do they not hear only echoes? Echoes of the voices of the men behind the wall. To these prisoners, there are no men. To these prisoners, is it not the shadows themselves that are in truth speaking?

The shadows have form. The shadows have voice. The shadows are truth.

Behold one prisoner. His name is Invenio. None knows how it happens. Some call it fate; some call it providence; others luck. But Invenio is freed. The chains around his neck and legs snap, and he falls to the floor of the den.

In that moment, everything changes. He turns around to an epiphany. He sees the chains of his companions. He sees the light coming from over the wall. He climbs the wall.

Do you see the wall?

Do you see the figures behind it?

Do you see the fire in the distance?

Invenio sees…and he approaches.

He meets the low wall first. He sees the figures behind it and the fire at a distance. He watches the figures move along the wall and turns again to the shadows. The shadows move in unison with the figures. They are one! He waves his arm gently and sees a shadow mimic his movement. The shadows are not truth. The shadows are but reflections of the truth.

He climbs the wall. Astonished, he sees that the figures are being hoisted by men. The figures are not the truth. There are men beneath them which give them life and movement. Invenio brushes past the men…and toward the fire.

Do you see the fire?

Do you feel its warmth?

Do you feel its brightness?

Closer. Closer.

Invenio approaches the light. He can almost touch it. He reaches…but then he remembers.

Do you see the prisoners?

Do you see the chains around their necks and legs?

Invenio sees. Invenio feels pity for the prisoners. Invenio returns to set them free.

The cost of enlightenment is often the support of your fellow men. The path to discovery is often a lonely road. For we are all prisoners to our limited understanding and skeptics by nature to those who might show us a new way.

The prisoners do not believe Invenio. The prisoners label him a heretic. He is crazy. His eyes are full of darkness. He is truly lost.

Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.

Do you see Invenio?

Do you see the prisoners?

Do you see the fire?

Do you see?

Who are you?

Are you a prisoner? Are you Invenio?

I am Invenio.

Okay, What Was that All About?

What you just read (and/or listened to) was my speech last night for Toastmasters. I was to tell a folk tale and, being the nerd that I am, the first thing that popped into my head was Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. I added my own spin, but the passages from Plato are in block quotes. Everything else is stuff I made up to make it more interesting.

The point of my story is, if you didn’t catch it, that discovery is often met with cynicism instead of joy. People doubt new ideas, new ways of doing things, and they have no qualms about letting you know their suspicions. Many times, when you act on your convictions and pursue your dreams, you will have to do it alone. You want have an audience cheering you on; you will have an angry mob trying to slow you down.

But you’ve seen the light. They are prisoners to their own cynicism. Don’t listen to them. Don’t let them hold you back. Push on.

Whether in business or in life, you will have those epiphanies. You will have realizations that there is a new and better way. The chains will be loosened and you will see clearly for the first time. In those moments, do yourself a favor and ignore the naysayers. They have nothing to offer you.

The cost of enlightenment is often the support of your fellow men. The path to discovery is often a lonely road. For we are all prisoners to our limited understanding and skeptics by nature to those who might show us a new way.

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