Amidst the facade and fictional overlay of the world, there is an underlying truth. This is not a reference to the validity of factual knowledge, but more so to the truth in perception. What is the true nature of all that is? We ask these questions in every waking moment of our lives, but normally not through conscious methods. We question subconsciously. We are unaware seekers, eternally blinded by the fog of ignorance, yet still questioning what we perceive in some deeper facet of our minds. There is an aspect of humanity’s primal nature rooted in the bliss of ignorance: the conditioning of our minds on the basis of prior bias and prejudice. Environmental factors, over a period of time, result in a developing pattern of thought that tends to stick with us for life. This pattern is the epitome of ego. It leads us into an existence founded in ignorance.
The struggle between the security of ignorance and the piercing clarity of truth is well documented. Humanity is not entirely oblivious to it’s superficial perception of reality, even though most do not choose to acknowledge it. In Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” a few subjects are chained where all they can see are shadows of real objects on the wall in front of them. Their backs are to the entrance of the cave, and so the subjects did not know of anything more ingrained in truth than the faux images. They were ignorant of the honest reality of the world.
This struggle is again expressed in a modern film, “The Truman Show.” The lead character, Truman, is the star of a television show that he believes is the real world. His family, friends, and any other humans he interacts with are merely actors. His hometown, Seahaven, is only a giant set. Truman believes everything is real while his actions are unknowingly being broadcasted to the entire nation. The movie introduces Truman at a time when he is only beginning to realize there is something not right or authentic about his life. The film documents Truman’s ascension into the real world and into knowledge similar to that of Plato’s cave dwellers.
“We accept the reality of the world in which we are presented.” This quote emanated from the directer of “The Truman Show.” Truman Burbank lived his life in a television show since birth, knowing no other reality. Acceptance of the world as he saw it was ingrained in his mentality. He firmly believed that the lifestyle he was living was normal. In Plato”s “Allegory of the Cave” the subjects in the cave watched the shadows believing they were completely founded in truth. The actors Truman grew to love and trust are metaphors for the shadows the subjects in the cave accepted as real. There were times when Truman was informed he was living a life of lies in a television show, but he was unable to understand them in his ignorance. Similarly, when a subject in the cave was told that more to life existed than the cave itself, he could not believe it, proving that ignorance is blinding. It was not until he witnessed the true reality or world for himself that his eyes were opened. This struggle and eventual realization is synonymous with that of Truman’s.
In the film, the viewers of “The Truman Show” religiously watch the events in Truman’s life, basing their own lives around his decisions and actions. Like Truman, they are controlled by the puppeteers, or directors, of the show. Once Truman escaped into the true world, the viewers found other shows to watch. It can be said that people in a media-driven society are prisoners like those in Plato’s cave. We watch television as they watch the shadows of the puppets, and base our lives around such. For example, commercials espouse certain products, advertising them profusely. We give in to this pressure and purchase them accordingly, only reinforcing the metaphorical prison we all are enchained in.
Plato would agree that both his “Allegory of the Cave” and “The Truman Show” are merely paradigms of an overall human condition. We all are slaves to ignorance and a limited perception of “what is.” Each of us believes in a monochrome reality, one in which our vision of the world is truth, and anything else is in opposition to that viewpoint. Like the prisoners in the cave, we cannot see the truth, and therefore we cannot fathom the existence of it. This inhibition can be transcended, but only through courage and introspection. The truth is paramount, but unless the ignorance of accumulated conditioning and a superficial perception are overcome, we will forever be blind to the beauty of what truly “is.”
Wake up. The truth is within you.