This past weekend I spent most of Saturday underground. Two friends and I went to the Ape Caves in south-eastern Washington for the day. These caves are actually lava tunnels formed about 2,000 years ago by Mt. St. Helens, long before it was ever called that. The first half of the cave is a walk in the park, but the second reminded me of something out of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.
While we were in no danger of flowing lava or dinosaur-like creatures that roam beneath the surface of the earth, we did encounter large rock piles we needed to summit and short walls to climb over. As Marrissa, Hannah, and I precariously picked our way over the small boulders, I was forced to think about being underground, and all the implications that came with it. There’s no sunlight, or fresh air. Darkness is all around, pressing into you; it can feel oppressing after a while. But, besides the physical aspects of being underground, I was also thinking about the allegorical ones.
I recently read The Republic by Plato for one of my classes. I had never read anything like it before. I was intrigued by a lot of what Plato had to say about knowledge, and true wisdom. He presents his famous cave allegory as a way of showing what knowledge and wisdom really are. He tells a story of a few people kept in a cave their whole lives, and finally one of them is freed and lead into the light above ground. This person is forcibly shown that what he had believed his whole life was not the real truth, but rather a shadow of the truth.
I can relate to this person who has been forced to examine his ideas of truth. Through the honors program and other classes here at school, I have been exposed to so many new ideas and beliefs that it can be hard to sort through them all. Our professors encourage us to think about what “we know to be true, or right or good.”
I have been doing more real thinking these last few months than I have ever done before. And it has been good for me, but right now, I’m still feeling a lot like that guy who’s being blinded by the sun after years underground. Here’s to the day when my eyes finally adjust and I can see clearly!