Friday, July 01, 2011

on an inscription at the oracle at Delphi.

“…for everyone is orthodox to himself.”

—John Locke

“…when you find that you’re a villain in the story you have written.”

—Death Cab

Glaucon: It’s a strange image you’re describing, and strange prisoners.
: They’re like us…


I hate confrontation. When someone confronts me I almost always feel profoundly disoriented and slightly nauseous. The reason why, I think, is because up until right before the confrontation I think of myself as okay. My good intentions seem to match up well with their consequences, and I’m like, “Hey, you’re doing alright—at least for the most part.” But when someone says otherwise, I’m forced to see myself how she sees me, and it’s usually ugly and unbearable. For who can think of herself as ugly and not long for annihilation?

It reminds me of the prisoners in Plato’s cave. After their liberator frees them from their shackles and they look at how the world really is, they become overwhelmed and disoriented because nothing looks familiar. Living a lie for so long lets us get used to it. We’re able to build a thick and crusty wall of faux justifications and tired excuses so that we can live with ourselves—even if no one else can. And when those who love us muster the courage to save us from ourselves and say something, we stick with the familiar and see our liberator as a threat. Like a dog returns to its vomit, we gladly shut out the light and return to the darkness to nurse our rotten wounds.

Of course, this unfortunate situation highlights the necessity of community. If there’s one thing I’m very confident about it’s that the inner recesses of my soul are hardly transparent to my mind’s eye, even if they don’t appear opaque. And even in the times when things are as transparent as they seem, I can usually make up any reason under the sun to avoid a closer look.

But, I’d also like to stress that mere community alone is not sufficient to fix the problem. Plato’s prisoners had community, and they seemed to notice neither their own chains nor those of their neighbor. This is probably because we tend to gravitate toward persons who share our own values, and this often means persons with our same vices. I take it that this is why we'll never see a drunkard and a sober alcoholic hanging out much.

Perhaps a less obvious reason why mere community isn’t going to cut it is that the soul is a very difficult place to navigate (the word ‘catacomb’ comes to mind) and it’s very easy to do serious damage to it in the very interest of trying to restore it. If a heart surgeon were to use a butter knife to operate on a patient with coronary heart disease, she’d end up doing more damage than the disease itself. A fortiori, given how much more tender and delicate one’s soul is, using blunt and dull instruments with shaky or unskilled hands can nearly destroy it. So please, be careful…

I know I need to be more open than I am and I need to put myself in position to let others help me see myself. This I can do. I just hope that your hands are gentle, your sighs are full of insight, and your scalpel is sharp.

Also, here’s my summer jam. It reminds me of how I feel. On this day. Which is like most days.



Post a Comment

<< Home

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.