10 March 2008

Alternatives to the Allegory of the Cave

Reading: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens; Possession by A. S. Byatt
watching: Harry Potter 5
listening to: Sense & Sensibility on tape; Loreena McKennitt's An Ancient Muse

Well, the second Platonic post didn’t elicit many responses at all! Let’s try this final topic.

Can you suggest alternatives to the Allegory of the Cave? These could be new allegories or modes of explaining the Platonic conception. They could be other understandings of the universe and meta-universe. In other words, if you are not a Platonist, what are you and how do you explain physical and extra-physical realities and their relationships? Can you devise an allegory for an Aristotelian understanding, or for a Berkleyian idealism, or for any other conception? Or, you could suggest works of art, literature, or other media that present either a new way of visualizing Plato’s controlling concept or an alternative worldview?

So I shall begin.

There are many works of art that present new ways of understanding Plato’s worldview. I have endeavored to present most of them in classes. These are, I believe, the best:
The Matrix
The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis
The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis
The Place of the Lion by Charles Williams
I read Dante’s Divine Comedy in a Christian neo-Platonic light (allusive pun intended), as the narrator travels through projected images reflective of the real condition of saints in the Heavenly Rose.

Oh, and another you’ve never heard of, “Danaher: The Musical.” This musical, based on the life of a professor of philosophy at Nyack College, was written by a professor of English (and an Inklings specialist), Dr. Charles Franklin Beach, and the music was composed by a classmate of my sister’s, James Gardener. My sister, Nadine, played Prof. Danaher’s wife. It’s a hilarious and uneven work with more potential than polish, written mostly for the amusement and accolades of its own community, Nyack College. The young Danaher, an avid reader of Plato, tripping on LSD, experiences a psychedelic vision of Christ accompanied by a multi-layered distortion of “Bridge over Troubled Waters” and disco-style strobe lights. The result is his conversion to Christianity and a song entitled “Out of the Cave and Into the Light.” Very sophomoric, but entertaining and not without truth.

Other than that, I think I’ve already done my share of developing a Christian reverse neo-Platonism that sees its ultimate reality in Heaven, rather than in a pre-existent world of forms.

Here’s a poem of my own that works off of the shadow and copy concept, plus a little sehnsucht thrown in to connect the Forms with Desire.

The Myth of Memory

I finally learned to dive,
and found joy hovered there:
a sphere of longing sublimed with the lake.
Below me, an indeterminate color hung
like shadows cast on grass;
above, desire quivering in a sunlit circle.

Well-mouth, cave-mouth, it shone:
compelling, fixing my imagination
on its unknown and unlabeled hues.
That strange, inviting light held me;
I crystallized, became the prism,
casting scattered shafts
from each toe and finger, every hair.
Is it that light I long for in my dreams?

In an underwater limbo
suspense and longing intermingled.
Delicious, like a taste;
refreshing, as if I drank and it were pure;
wet and pulsing like the act of love.
That unity in isolation seemed
the archetype of other, severed, pleasures:
I swam submerged and drowning in desire.

What did I want? Not that muddy lake,
that real dive split in fragments by my five
unpracticed senses, spluttering in fact.
Not to catch the fascinating disc of sunlight
on the surface. Not to stay and drown;
no, not to stay and contemplate.
Fish do not live suspended in a state
of constant wonder—or perhaps they do.
Maybe that explains the lack of eyelids,
always awake, always in sudden shock.

Everything that happens goes too fast.
I never felt desire while I dove.

And yet, I read my recollections
as if feelings will be real,
as if every ecstasy will be itself
and every moment, lingering.
I live like longing will be unified and re-embodied
in the consummation and consecration of desire.

~ Admonit

03 March 2008

March Poem of the Month

Double Vision
After Coleridge

The poet wanders in the lane
that leads from thinking into dreams
and watches pictures in the sky
above her almost sleeping mind.
What is it makes a poet mad?
What is it gives her double sight?
For in her lines two images
are one, two meanings overlap
like holograms or magic eye.
Rain to snow is prose to verse;
a mother is a silken tent;
a lover is a summer’s day.
That day is open to the heaven’s airs
like consciousness to new ideas.
That sun is heady to the birthing brain
like champagne pouring into clear
and ardent atmospheres of pairs.
That sky is all one color, so she knows
that from her harmonies of rhyming
and her melodies of feet
trust is true and solid like the vault
of cloudless sky; something must have meaning
like each truss of moted sunbeams
bolted to interpretative earth.
The question is, which one of many truths?

A cloud comes by without a word,
for words don’t equal things;
the sky’s a sound, or sky is soundless—
both very much the same—
and I do not have pictures in my brain.
Colors are external to my sense,
and so are shapes: ideas
come feathered-footed, formless, whispering
in shapes as close to shapelessness as are.
The summer day is there, but does not wait,
whether I go barefoot in its creeks
or sit and wonder what day’s flavor is,
or what its pitch if it were played as tune,
or how to use it as a metaphor.

This is not enchantment, and it is:
the mystery of meaning in a sound,
the miracle that you can read these lines,
the supernatural seeing of the things
I’ve merely named. And I have learned
that something like a summer day may live
in my own house, in my own heart, and I
have only to take off my stupid shoes.

~ Admonit