There be dragons!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Down into the cave


Plato says that it is necessary for the philosopher to descend again into the world of shadows in order to help others. I can't help but think, though, at the beginning of this school year, that though that is certainly true the philosopher must do this for his own sake as well. Perhaps man cannot live "up there" in the ether; the proper study of man is man and the proper realm of man is this realm of shadows and tears and images and thaumatopoioi. Perhaps at the end of all the searching for meaning in the things around us, we discover that there is a nothingness - or a vast, cold, brilliant realm of thin air (too thin for us to breathe) and only after a glimpse or two must we return to our own clime. This is a problem b/c "re-entry", as Walker Percy notes, is very painful. Jewish mysticism counselled against thinking that the nothingness was the end of the journey; there is a something, being itself, beyond that vast pale blue void of the abyss, they said, but crossing that area is outside the parvue of man in this life. Thus the philosopher returns not just for the sake of others, but for his own sake lest he fly too close to the sun, melt his wings, and plummet to the ocean of chaos and death.

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