In Plato’s allegory of the cave,  we learn about some prisoners who have been trapped in a cave their whole lives, they’ve never seen the world outside of the cave. They are chained in such a way that they are facing the wall, with their backs towards the entrance of the cave. Due to their positioning, they can occasionally see shadows on the cave wall of the things that are passing by the cave. They occasionally hear noises and they associate the sounds with the shadows they see. They only know the world through the shadows they see on the cave wall. One day, one of the prisoners escapes and leaves the cave, at first he can’t see anything because it’s too bright and he’s blinded by the brightness. Over time his eyes adjust and he can see things with much more clarity than before. For the first time he’s seeing things as they really are. From that moment on, he understands that [mks_highlight color=”#eeee22″]the shadow of a thing is not the same as the thing itself[/mks_highlight]. Elated with his new understanding of the world, he returns to the cave to tell his friends all about what he’s seen but to his surprise, they don’t believe him. It’s not that they don’t want to believe him but they literally can’t believe him. They only know the world through the shadows and they’ve never experienced life any other way. Enlightenment is seeing the world the way it really is, it can’t be fully grasped by explanation it has to be experienced and only then can it truly be understood.
Several years ago, my twin brother and his wife visited Istanbul and toured the famous Hagia Sophia, considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture. The Hagia Sophia is said to have changed the history of architecture. It was the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years. When they came home, they showed us pictures and videos and told all about the experience. It was fun to see the pictures and to imagine what it would be like to be there. A few years later, my wife and I went to Istanbul and we got to visit the Hagia Sophia ourselves and even though I had seen the pictures and watched the videos, the experience still took my breath away. No amount of explanation, photography, or videos can compare to experiencing it in person.
As we go through life, we gain insight from every experience we have. It’s not about just trying to have good experiences or avoiding having bad experiences (Who knows what is good and what is bad?) its about the experience of experiencing. Enjoy the journey because the journey is the goal.