Don Rogers: Our lot in life
February 22, 2018
The human condition is Plato's cave, reading reality in shadows illuminated dimly. Only we're not chained. We're digging.
Even the 1 percent who break through, free to trot the globe, able to purchase the finest wines, refine a taste for the opera, meet the Hiltons for lunch in Barbados, turn back to the earth to dig new tunnels, the prize not found.
Maybe digging with machinery, more likely with fists and fingernails, dirt and blood underneath.
This is more like it. Ignore television, idealized Facebook postings. Everything aspirational, traps all.
Your life is a cave. Ready? Go!
You start in your parents' space, what they've opened to you and helped you with their tools to begin on your tunnel, your path.
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Some is soft dirt, and you can begin with bare hands, maybe grab a shovel in this easier going. Take care to find support lest the whole thing collapse on you if you go too far:
In love, maybe, especially while young and smitten.
Along the veins of your particular talents, where the digging comes easier and your ego swells.
Following interests. Sports, or music, coding, gaming, arts, crafts, exploration, discovery. Play, fun.
Always for fortune. This doesn't have to be fun, we're told, and it seldom is. But the reward's huge for breaking through. That's the promise, anyway.
This is life, so the dirt eventually gets rocky, then turns into harder stuff, maybe granite. There's precious treasure ahead, assuredly, but you'll have to work as well as be blessed with luck. And you'll need tools.
Most make do with hand tools. Picks, sledges, shovels, pry bars. What you know, with some of what you have learned. You peck away, enjoy your breaks, see what you see, dream of what you glimpse on TV or the carefully curated postings of other lives.
Maybe you are fortunate enough to have power tools, handed down or you learned to find or you had the wit to build.
Or explosives. That'll open things up in a hurry. But you can get hurt or ruined touching off bombs. You may hold the fuse and dream. You may say … and fire yours off.
You tunnel every which way. For riches, for knowledge, for happiness, to pass your days, for maybe no reason you can think of at all, consumed as you are with chipping and hammering, caught up in the routine, in your dim illumination. Looking at the shadows.
Maybe you are one of the few, mastering special skills, finding what you have to sell in great demand, or you're just damned lucky. Anyway, you break all the way through, part of the chosen few, following one or more of your richest veins. Achieve the dream, all the way baby.
More likely you've tunneled for a time in numerous directions, maybe stopping just short here and then there, or maybe always laboring in exactly the wrong direction. You're one of those mules that lived whole lives a few thousand feet below the surface of the Empire Mine. You adapt to the dark, the constriction, the mind map of a life in the depths.
Maybe you gave up, stopped digging, figuring one tunnel's as good as another, or none. There's no gold for you, and so what anyway? Let time tick down, your little indulgences do. It'll end the same for you as the others anyway. Ultimately, what's the point?
So. Back to Plato. It's not about the shadows, the riches, the promise, ease, everything answered (if assuredly wrong), the struggle over, getting everything you could want.
All just shadows. You are chasing shadows, blood under your fingernails. That's not why we are here. At least not according to Plato.
He, the nutty ol' philosopher, believed in forms. Watching shadows, scratching after them, we'd be blinded if we were to break into the light.
I think he believed in love — the truest, brightest sort. The highest form. That'll cut through any granite.
Don Rogers is the publisher of The Union, The Wildwood Independent and Truckee Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-4299.
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