“The ignorant, who perceive themselves as all knowledgeable but are in fact fooled by appearances, reject philosophers who alone understand the true nature of things. Upon attaining knowledge, however, philosophers are required to return among the ignorant to try to teach them, for leaving one’s fellow citizens in ignorance is considered a crime.”
— Preface to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” from The Essential Classics
“I just don’t understand,” says a reader, “how there could be a variant of something that does not exist.”
He’s not just skeptical about Omicron… he believes COVID itself isn’t real at all. Instead, he believes the true pandemic is something else entirely:
The vaccines are the virus that is causing all this havoc on the world population. In the beginning, when it started, we were told the vaccine was needed to return to a normal life. Then the second vaccine came; then the booster shots came. Now we know the shots are not going to stop coming. The variants are not going to stop popping up.
Our reader concludes, “Looking back at documents from years back, it becomes obvious they are following a plan well thought of and put into motion according to a schedule.”
The letter writer doesn’t provide any links to the documents in question… nor offer any sources at all. Without any hint of his credentials or expertise in these matters, we have to wonder if he’s just reacting to shadows on the wall.
You might recall that’s an idea from Plato and his “Allegory of the Cave.” In short, it imagines prisoners who are chained deep underground looking at a rock wall. A nearby fire provides light, and people walk in front of the fire carrying various objects. But all the prisoners know of them are the shadows they see cast on the wall.
Plato then asks what would happen if one of the prisoners were set free… and given a chance to visit the surface. The bright light would hurt his eyes, and he’d be confused by what he saw. Still, he’d know more than the prisoners he left behind.
But good luck trying to tell the other prisoners that. All they know are their interpretations of the flickering distortions that make up their world. So they’d likely dispute the freeman’s descriptions of life beyond the cave.
Plato saw philosophers as the freed prisoner. They ventured out to see things as they actually were, even though it was hard and painful. Then they had the burden of describing the true nature of their surroundings to everyone else — working to overcome the people’s ingrained misconceptions.
I see a lot of Plato’s allegory playing out in the modern world — part of the Modern Society Syndrome we’ve been talking about. There is truth out there, but it is being distorted by the light of social media, the mainstream press, politicians and pundits of all stripes. People are so incensed by the shadowy images cast on their Facebook — sorry, Meta — walls that they fail to consider the reality at the center of it all.
Let’s be clear, though. I’m not picking on “anti-vaxxers,” like today’s letter writer. I’ve expressed my opinions on mandates and requirements… but I’m still getting a booster today. I have also gotten two of the shingles vaccines (it comes in a pair). I’ve gotten my tetanus shot, renewable every five years. I get the flu vaccine every year, even though that one is something like 30% effective. There’s a thing called the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine; I got that one, too.
“Vaccine,” I just learned, is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year. Get out of my head. And stop sticking things in my arm.
Ahem, sorry… the point is, my views on vaccines are my own — based on my interpretations of what I’ve seen, read and learned. But I’m not just staring straight ahead at the wall in front of me. And I recognize that my perspective is not absolute, so I respect the fact that others see things differently.
It’s the reason I’m against mandates. Don’t tell people what to do. Give them the information they need, then let them decide their best course of action.
Demetri Kofinas has a similar view… and it’s the guiding principle of his Hidden Forces podcast.
“It’s the idea that we engage with the surface superficiality of life,” he says. “The epiphenomena that are really just the shadows on the cave.”
Epiphenomena? Now that’s a much better candidate for “word of the year.” As Demetri explains, epiphenomena are “the narrative, the play, the seeming causal factors that aren’t necessarily really the causal factors driving the things that we see.”
He adds, “We need to be able to understand more fundamentally what’s really driving the epiphenomena that we experience in our daily lives.”
So he doesn’t limit himself to guests who share his worldview. “I wanted to disabuse myself of all those biases,” Demetri tells me, “and I wanted to look at the world as honestly and objectively as I could.”
Doing that enables you to “forecast more effectively, or be better prepared for the future.”
But like the freed prisoner from the cave, it isn’t an easy thing to do. “It’s a windier, less certain road,” he says, “but it’s much more fulfilling.
“And it leads to, I think, character and truth.”
Plato might have agreed…
Follow your bliss,
Founder, The Financial Reserve