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No Cave


On the subject of that Big Beautiful Wall Fence winding its way along the US southern border I have to agree with Donald J. Trump's admonition - "No Cave."
I realize that the Elvis from Queens fired this rock from his trebuchet on Jan. 22nd and a lot has changed since that time including the fact that he "caved" on the government shutdown and "reopened"  the dragon's lair on Friday, Jan. 25th. In point of fact, it was not the POTUS who caved but the sniveling Republicans in the Senate that could not hold the line and push this policy demand into the sweet spot of civic and economic torture which would have forced the Democrats to surrender. Just another day on Hamburger Hill with a ludicrous #FakeNews report attempting to tie the Roger Stone arrest to the president's decision to back off from the government shutdown - Sad!
I have news for CNN and @Acosta and all the other talking heads celebrating the Cave and dismissing the Wall and that is this: There is no Cave - there is only a Wall. Or shall we start calling it a WALL now, dispensing with all lower case letters altogether, for that is the place we have arrived after cajoling and compromising with the opposition for 30+ days in an effort to build bipartisan agreement only to have all efforts stonewalled and any perceived weakness or change in negotiating strategy rubbed in the Great Dealmaker's face accompanied by the jeering of journalists monkeys perched in the peanut gallery. So we now have a WALL and that WALL is going to be built. Period.
 When I read the words "No Cave" my mind naturally turns to the Plato's Republic and his famous allegory positing the base condition of man, the political animal, as being chained spelunkers watching shadows on a wall and mistaking the reflection of sight and sound for reality. It is the only reality they ever know lest some fearless soul is (somehow) unshackled and turns, slowly and painfully, to see the light and ascend out of his hole of false consciousness to perceive the world as it truly is and then return to enlighten his bound commarads.


To which I say, in solidarity with the POTUS, No Cave! There is no Cave and there never has been a Cave - not in ancient Greece and not today. The Cave's higher truth is an ever present idea running through Western Civilization but it is nothing more than a wise old philosophers conceit formulated in an audacious attempt to shatter the objections to his thoughtful musings on the "reality" of Justice and the Good which can only be realized in the Best State which is one (I hope this does not surprise you) ruled by a philosopher king. As a stand alone allegory it is taught to adolescents and young adults to be the clearest example of Platonic metaphysics but it does not stand alone and, as with so many things, the context is what's missing in most people's understanding of this common and deeply subversive idea. Who in their right mind wants to read The Republic and listen to this doddering old man pose questions to his interlocutors who, almost always answer, "that is true, Socrates" or "they must" or "that is evident" when objection after objection arises in the mind of the reader. Well, I do because they don't call it "the book that started it all" for nothing. They don't make it book number one of every Great Books curriculum in Western Civilization by mistake and so a brief review is in order that I might place The Cave where it belongs.

Plato's Republic

Books 1 & 2 - Socrates and his friend Glaucon are compelled to enter a dialog with a gathering of elites concerning the subject of Justice and how it might be defined or understood or known. We can wash our hands of this question early in Book 1 as explained in KOTCB Cephalus walks away but then we should never get to our destination so we must address the proposition by A. Thrasymachus that Might Makes Right because the rulers write the law and B. Glaucon that all men are by nature unjust and therefore require laws to compel their obedience to Goodness. Socrates punches holes in these propositions but does not (can not) refute them or come up with a better definition of Justice and so...

Books 3, 4 & 5 - The humble philosopher turns, as is almost always the case, to Social Justice claiming that Justice in an individual man is hard to perceive but by looking at The State - its culture and politics - we will discover Justice writ large and then can explore the man which is, after all, nothing but a reflection of The State. Thus begins the description of one of the most unpleasant, dull and mechanical Hell Holes ever put on paper and I have to think that Plato was laughing his ass off as he described a city without mythic poetry (censored), without Rock & Roll (bad for the children), where Civilizations Guardians are raised like dogs and bitches in the pack, where the entire population is lied to by their Philosopher Kings about their birth, childhood and anything else (your memories are just a dream) and culminating in the Guardian class riding into battle with their wives AND THEIR CHILDREN so that they might enjoy the violence of war as a family. It is astonishing how many Western Civ. gurus and Philosophy professors read this straight and don't understand the comedy which is right in front of their face - it's almost like their sitting in the cave of academia with their head up their ass, but I digress.

Book 6 - Socrates makes the case that only a Philosopher King could lead the ideal State that he has just painted with words which leads to this exchange:

Adeimantus - ..."For any one of us might say, that although in words he is not able to meet you at each step of the argument, he sees as a fact that the votaries of philosophy, when they carry on the study, not only in youth as a part of education, but as the pursuit of their maturer years, most of them become strange monsters, not to say utter rogues, and that those who may be considered the best of them are made useless to the world by the very study which you extol."
Socrates - "Well, and do you think that those who say so are wrong?"
Adeimantus - "I cannot tell, but I should like to know what is your opinion?"
Socrates - "Hear is my answer: I am of opinion that they are quite right?"

Opinions are like ass holes - everybodies got one which leads us to... A Cave.

Book 7 - And it is here dear reader where the allegory of The Cave is positioned in the story as if to say, "I have shown you a shadow on the wall of your imagination and it's nothing more than a magic trick. You have chained YOURSELVES and witnessed the most preposterous civilization ever conceived by the arts of reason and sophistry which you, because I am a great philosopher, or at least am regarded as such, are contemplating and struggling to understand. THERE IS NO CAVE!"

Book 8 & 9 - Socrates defines the 4 inferior forms of government and their corresponding men - Very good stuff here and well worth reading.

Book 10 - The imitator describes the imitative arts and how far removed they are from the truth and then, in a coup de grĂ¢ce, he closes with The Myth of Er as if to say, "you know all that stuff I said about reason in the preceding chapters? Well, stick this in your pipe and smoke it."

I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold

The day after Trump "caved" on the government shutdown I happened to be in NYC and wandered down to the Met with my son to show him one of my favorite painting - "I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold" by Charles Demuth. Inspiring in its complexity, beauty and symbolism I could look at this painting for hours and, as it happens, I keep a facsimile of the work in the form of a postcard on my desk so I look at it every day. It's a painting born of a poem (a line of poetry actually) and the number 5, being both a circle and a square is the number of Man. The endless imitation of God who's soul, of which our eternal souls are a living, earthbound part, is solid gold - no silver or bronze for us. After instructing my boy in this and many other aspects of the painting we continued to wander through the galleries and rounded a corner into the cavernous room pictured at the top of this page and stopped. At the far end of the room, bathed in the neon light of the sculpture hanging overhead were two security staff standing guard, hour upon hour, over this piece of "art" which had no purpose I could see except inducing a headache to anyone subjected to it. These are the Guardians described in Plato's Republic when his vision reaches fruition and is implemented by man. A living death to the eternal soul administered by the cold hand of reason which, being the facilitator of the highest virtue which is wisdom can not be denied. I halted in my tracks, took a photo of this Cave, and quickly backed my son out of the room explaining the horror of what he had just witnessed and admonishing him to see the world as it is.




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