“Above the cloud with its shadow is the star with its light. Above all things reverence thyself.” ~ Pythagoras.
I am not sure when I was introduced to philosophy or the great philosophers. I know my father used to ‘wax philosophical’ at the drop of a hat. I must have learnt about Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle but to be honest I don’t believe I ever studied them. So the first (and only) time I took a philosophy class I found it very challenging. It is fascinating to think of the conversations that were taking place 2000 years ago. Not to mention the even more developed academics that existed in Egypt and North Africa much earlier than the more famous European models.
But the story of the cave caught my attention. In one of Plato’s plays (I had to use the Google for this and please forgive my paraphrasing, I may lose something in the translation) Socrates teaches of the people that lived in a cave, chained to a wall. They could see action played out on the wall they faced, movement and activity of people. They were unaware that what they watched were mere shadows, that behind them were the actual people back-lit by a fire.
We are often fooled by appearances and make judgments based on superficialities. My mother, a product of her time, once told me that her disapproval of people having their ears pierced was that only gypsies pierced their ears! I am not sure what was so wrong with gypsies! In fact, I am pretty sure I was a gypsy in a previous life! The nomadic life appeals to me. Tattoos were another no-no. A nephew of mine once convinced one of my sons when young, that he should never get a tattoo. He used the gangsta argument – you don’t want to give the cops any ‘defining characteristics’ to identify you!
Like the people in the Plato’s cave, we are often fooled by the shadow of things, seeing only the dark, incomplete pictures. We can be just as unaware of the persona we project. I have come to appreciate that Facebook plays an interesting role in my life. I have many friends on Facebook, some of whom I know far better on the page than in the flesh, and vice versa. Since what they see of me is what I put out for the world to see, they will reciprocate by tagging me in pictures of nature, or in positive affirmations. Sometimes we can only know what we present to the world by seeing what is reflected back at us. It is very annoying, when I tell some story of the latest outrageous thing my granddaughter has said or done, to be told: “That’s you right there!” Who, moi????
We can choose to believe the shadow, or we can look for the reality behind it. There is a song in an old Louis Armstrong song, about the man who was ‘shadow-boxing in the dark’. That may be a good way to train, or it may be that we are wasting energy on imagined boogey monsters and unknowable future events.
When I was growing up in Jamaica we would walk everywhere. In the tropics, it was once said, only ‘mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun’. The significance of that of course, is that there is very little protection by way of shade at that time of day. When you live in the tropics you can tell the time by the length of your shadow, watching it get shorter as you approach noon, then longer as dusk approaches. When you go out walking, the side of the road you walk on has nothing to do with the traffic or any consideration of road courtesy. It has everything to do with the shade. You zig zag going up the hill to reduce the incline, and on the straight you criss-cross to find the shade. When I returned to live in England for a while I was fascinated to see how long your shadow could be in the winter, as the earth turned it’s face away from the sun. But unfortunately the sun at that time had no warmth, so there was no need to look for shade.
Shade, or ‘throwing shade’ has come to signify an insulting throwaway line, a barb thrown in jest but designed to pierce. We may not even realize that we are hurting someone until we see their reaction. I remember a co-worker, many years ago, that I really did not get on with. In Jamaica we would say ‘my spirit didn’t take her’ but of course, being the professional that I was, I worked very well with her. Until my boss mentioned that she had told him that I had a great sense of humor, but at times I could be ‘quite sharp’. Perhaps I was not as good at hiding my true feelings as I thought!
We are collectively, in this country at least, going through some trying times. There are people who are casting very long shadows as they influence events and create situations that may take a long time to correct. We have to make sure that we look beyond the shadows at the real actions, not the smoke screen designed to obfuscate and confuse. Hopefully, over time, more people will see and believe the truth, and not the smoke and shadows that are the tools of a snake-oil salesman. We have been warned about the beginnings of tyranny, the warning signs of what came before some of the heinous acts of oppression and cruelty in the 20th century. Let us hope that the light will cleanse the darkness, before it is too late.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family! May you shine light, hope and positivity wherever you go!