Having already covered Terra Incognita at the start of the pandemic, I still find that is what we face come Fall. We’ll be facing it until we have an effective vaccine for COVID-19. I have no assurance that we won’t attend school for more than a few weeks, with 18-22 year olds who are unlikely to socially distance or mask when out of our sight, and then shut down again.
So what metaphors come to mind for a likely vain effort that we attempt when facing the unknown?
In the midst of a national tragedy where a common refrain has become “I don’t know who to believe,” we see only shadows on a wall, not the thing behind us casting them. This calls to mind the famous metaphor that Plato employed in The Republic. It’s really an allegory–a story based upon an extended metaphor. Classics and The Bible are full of them.
In Plato’s case, we cannot perceive truth clearly. We are, as Plato’s mentor Socrates claimed, prisoners chained to seats who watch a shadow-puppet show cast from behind us. We cannot turn our heads to see the puppeteers nor the puppets casting the shadows. And woe betide anyone who tried to drag them out of the cave. Read more at the Wikipedia site noted, or better still, find a good translation of The Republic.
You can also view the first of the Matrix films, one of my favorite pieces of science-fiction cinema. It explores the question of the Cave well, and the dilemma of leaving it. In the end, one character would rather see the shadows and betrays his friends. That, too, proves a useful allegory for our times. So is “the red pill,” as modern metaphor. I’ll make that a future entry.
It’s my hope that with a vaccine and some sanity again in national affairs, the shadows on the cave wall may look prettier, even clearer to us.
Matrix image from…well, The Matrix of course.