Taking the High Road “The unexamined life is not worth living,” In TheApology, Socrates relates that the most important goal in life is theimprovement of the soul. We should search others, our environment, and ourselvesso that we may come to a better understanding of the world.
The Parable of theCave tells of the journey that Socrates was trying to relate, in that eachperson is faced with different realities as we travel to try and reach “theintellectual world. ” This journey of enlightenment draws close parallels toanother piece of literature by Robert Frost. In his poem “The Road NotTaken,” he describes how he felt as he came upon the fork in the road andchose to take the road less traveled “and that has made all thedifference. ” The use of life as a journey is nothing new to literature, butwith Plato and Frost both show that this journey is not easy and there are manychoices along the way that we must make that will determine the quality of thelife we will lead.
The main factor that drew me to the Parable of the Cave wasthe way it described our journey through life. It begins by telling us that thereality we initially see when we are chained down in the cave is nothing morethan an illusion. This is true in my own life in that I was told by my parentswhat was right and what was wrong without questioning the reason behind it. Theykept a chain of sorts around me so that I was not harmed by all of the realitiesof the world at once, but rather gradually introduced to them as I grew up.
Aswe are released from bondage, our reality is immediately changed. When we firstlook toward the light we “will suffer sharp pains;” as we try toadjust to this new reality that is suddenly thrown upon us. The bondage that weexperienced in the beginning is no longer there and the full weight of the worldis pressed down on us without the help of others and now responsibility for ourown actions becomes the controlling factor in our life. The light that firstshocked us into reality now causes you to come to a crossroads in life.
Lookingdirectly at the light will cause some pain and suffering, but offers a”clearer vision” or “turn away and take refuge in the objects ofvision which he can see” and return to the reality of which he wasaccustomed, but is only an illusion. Many people are scared to face reality andwould rather turn back to the shelter that they are comfortable with. Independence and freedom are things these people could live without, so long asthey had someone to lead them. Unfortunately, the majority of people fall intothis category. They become sheep and require a shepherd to guide them throughtheir lives.
The others who can overcome the blinding light are able to ask ofthemselves what they are trying to accomplish in their lifetime. They may makemistakes along the way, but because they had the strength to try, are able tolearn from those mistakes and become more intelligent as they age. Those thatnever leave the depths of the cave remain in an illusion. “Ignorance isbliss,” and these people never want to have to struggle with their lives,but would rather remain without the responsibility the new knowledge would bringthem if they were to walk towards the light. The light allows us to see thingsmore clearly and this is the goal that we are trying to reach in our lifetime,but are almost assured of failing. Why then should you constantly fight towardthis goal over adversity and hardship only to fail in the end? The journey isthe most important part of the trip, not the destination.
The things learnedalong the way will make your life more fulfilling and enjoyable. The Parable ofthe Cave shows how this journey can be related to our own lives and thestruggles we face throughout our lifetime. The journey talked of in The Parableof the Cave has many parallels with the poem by Robert Frost entitled “TheRoad Not Taken. ” The last line of the poem reads, “I took the road nottaken and that has made all the difference. ” The road usually taken is theeasy road, the road that is the most comfortable to us.
This road keeps usignorant because we never seek to gain more knowledge by searching and askingquestions. I chose to represent the Parable of the Cave by visually showing thepoem by Frost. It begins on a road that is surrounded by foliage. This acts toshelter you from the harmful world. The foliage shelters you until you come to afork in the road.
The road ahead of you is clear of any obstacles for as far asyou can see. The other road to your right begins with a hill and you can not seewhat lies ahead. At this fork you must make a decision to continue straightahead on the clear path, or take a chance and climb that hill to see what is onthe other side. The clear path is representative of the path that most peoplewill take, the easy road. This road continues with no obstacles because that iswhat you have seen all of your life and are comfortable with this arrangement.
Taking this road would be the same as returning to the depths of the cave onceyou were blinded by the light. The road to the right represents the continuancetoward the light at the cave mouth discussed by Plato. This road had obstaclesthat will impede your path and slow you down, but do not stop you fromcontinuing on to the end. The hills are the trials we must face in life if weare trying to obtain knowledge. The knowledge does not come withoutconsequences, however, and you must go through trying times (whether it beself-examination, examination of others, or examination of the environmentaround you) before you can move ahead.
Whichever road we decide to take, the endresult is the same, death. The roads lead to the same destination, but the pathsto that destination are very different. This is representative of the course oflife that each of us must take, some paths are easier than others, but the moredifficult path leads to a more fulfilling life. The Parable of the Cave showsthe major steps in life that we are all faced with. Those who choose to turnaway from the light would not lead a fulfilling life in the eyes of Plato orSocrates. Those that choose to continue toward the light take all theresponsibility that comes with that choice.
By continuing toward the light theycontinue to enlightenment. In order to reach enlightenment, we must questionourselves and our motives and in doing so will face more trying and pressingtimes than those who choose to return to a place that they are comfortable with. Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” very much parallels the thoughtsexpressed by Plato. We are faced with many choices in life. The fork in the roadrepresents those choices we are faced with and once they are made, there is noturning back.
The mistakes made along the way may cause use to stumble or slowdown, but the journey to the end is much more fulfilling if we are willing totake the road less traveled, for it too could “make all thedifference.”