First of all, Phil Collins is the Plato of our generation. Don't believe me? Listen to his song "Take Me Home," or at least read its lyrics here, then remember Plato's Allegory of the Cave, summarized like all things by and for general consumption at its Wikipedia. Both contributions to society depict a character that has been "a prisoner all my life," with a "fire that's been burning right outside my door," and that seems content with the delusions that have pervaded his life. Indeed, adult contemporary radio is the Socratic dialogue of our generation.
I first heard of Plato, Socrates, and the Allegory of the Cave my freshman year in high school, when Mr. Poslaiko introduced them in a discussion about the relevance of learning via our five senses. Of course, this analogy easily extends and can describe the way one lives his life, as well. Unlike the victims of Plato's allegory, some people choose to live chained and to behold those vapid shadows as their only understanding of reality. In one of his dialogues, Plato even explains how one freed from those chains and dragged into the real world might prefer the shadows, as they were his original and thus true perception of the way things should be -- and some people act like that today, as well.
We call these people the Amish. Kidding . . . That was too easy.
I don't live in a cave. I live in a tunnel. At either opening, I can turn to see a different vibrant reality, but right now I'm looking at the shadows they cast on the wall. These shadows sometimes blend into one distorted image with the dancing shapes of each, depending on the way the fire behind me burns and pops. Other times, the shadows are cast so far apart, I may as well crane my neck that extra inch to look outside, but then I see the opposing reality in its colorful, third dimensional glory, in stark contrast to that different, static silhouette, and I get confused. It's enough to make me want to put that that fire out.
I suppose Plato's prisoners had a third option, though I don't think he ever explored it: though their limbs and heads were bounds and immobile, they could've closed their eyes and refused the shadows to create a reality all their own. The snag in this plan is that the imagination could only conjure and distort what it's already seen, so even their make-believe escape would consist solely of shadow, too -- but in my case, I've seen it all. I've seen both ends of the tunnel, the shadows they cast, the tunnel itself. I've seen the ground beneath my feet and can easily tunnel another way out, something I've done a few times before and would rather not do again. That it's always an option is enough.
Yet keeping the two worlds at bay to remain in the tunnel is not enough; it is, as the Allegory of the Cave insists, an empty existence. So, what's the answer? Good student that I am, I consult the Phil(osopher) Collins and his treatise: I feign memory loss, and I demand: Take me home. After all, I'm not a prisoner; I walked into this tunnel. Someone lead me whence I came, out the way I'm most familiar. Take me home.