The above meme has been floating around over the past week. I love it because it so simply lays out the issue I am trying to address with Breaking the Frame. This is from the Wikipedia article on Plato’s allegory of the cave:

Plato has Socrates describe a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them, and give names to these shadows. The shadows are the prisoners’ reality.

Socrates explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not reality at all, for he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the manufactured reality that is the shadows seen by the prisoners. The inmates of this place do not even desire to leave their prison, for they know no better life. The prisoners manage to break their bonds one day, and discover that their reality was not what they thought it was.

You may think that I agree with Socrates, that we need to break the chains that hold us in a false reality in order to discover what’s really real. You are right to think that in the past I have broken chains, climbed out of the cave, saw the blinding and brilliant light, and felt the joy of being liberated. But, as things came into focus, the scene was eerily familiar. I looked around and realized “Oh shit, this is just another cave.”

Over the course of my life I have developed and clung to many different worldviews: childish and naive, cynical and self-interested, fundamentalist Christian, militant rationalist, social justice warrior. I don’t know many people that have changed their outlook on the world as many times, and as fervently, as I have. Each one clearly illuminated aspects of reality and obscured others completely. Eventually, I started to wonder, “What if the problem isn’t that I haven’t found the right worldview? What if the problem is committing to, and wholeheartedly adopting a worldview?” Sticking with the analogy, “What if it is just a system of caves?”

If we entertain this thought, it stands to reason that our efforts should not be directed towards finding the best cave and hunkering down in it for the rest of our lives. We should instead start to hone our skills of navigating, become familiar with as many caves as we can, and start to learn which caves might be best for taking shelter in at specific times. We should be wary of anyone who claims their cave is best. Having seen the breadth of the system we should also be wary of those who claim they have navigated a sufficient amount of it so as to claim superior knowledge. We should gravitate towards those who seem to be skilled at navigating and recognizing clearly the truths and illusions present in each cave so as to learn from them how we can develop these capacities. Breaking the Frame is a space devoted to helping us cultivate these skills.

Throughout my journey, I have found a variety of practices that have been useful for helping me realize when I am stuck in a particular cave. Activities like meditation, improv, freestyle, writing, endurance sports, and the careful use of psychoactives might seem completely unrelated but they have a common thread of helping us break out of our default mode of clinging to our views. By intentionally doing this on a regular basis we can start to cultivate the skills necessary to more skillfully navigate through reality. If you are interested in exploring this further I hope you will reach out for a conversation.

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