Crack and Platos Allegory of the Cave

26 May

I was 8 years old when I began to read Williams Shakespeare. I was 9 when I began to ruminate the words of Sir Francis Bacon and deemed him my favourite philosopher while I hungrily ate up lines through coke bottle glasses. I was 15 years old when I first read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave but the context was different. I was in a treatment centre for my second time, this time for alcoholism and a budding crack addiction.

The first time I smoked crack was on a runaway to Edmonton where I was picked up at the bus depot by my best friend at 3 in the morning. I was whisked away to a seedy basement apartment where I was introduced to crack cocaine. I smoked the night away with some grown men I had never met before. They laughed when I found myself amused at the new feelings, new process, new high. I was still a child but you couldn’t tell me that at that age without a “fuck you” in reply. My need and desire for it escalated slowly after that, but escalated nonetheless.

Soon I was smoking crack from pop cans and taking seconds. I remember having to throw out tutti frutti flossing tape because the taste of it reminded me of taking a hit and it triggered me. I almost veered over that blurry line of trading sex for crack but luckily I never did end up doing it. I think it was because I placed more crack value on my body than the other person agreed it was worth.

So… I was a crack smoking alcoholic teenager who could still recite lines from Romeo and Juliet from memory and talk Sir Francis Bacon.

There I was in treatment for the second time and one of the workers with a fresh degree and an ample vocabulary brought me in reading materials.

“Plato’s Allegory of the what?” I said to Adam.

“Cave, Helen. Cave. It’s not that long, read it and we can discuss it afterwards,” Adam said and exited my over institutionalized room setting, complete with cold white walls and pale green trim.

My mind thumbed over this moment today, pulling up other spent seconds that cling onto the same thread. I made my best friend read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave when I got home from treatment, which was earlier than expected. Early release, not by good behaviour but because they made it against the rules to smoke cigarettes and I was caught sneaking one in the unfinished top floor of the building. Rebellion dies hard.

In the story a dialogue is happening where one describes a scene where people are chained together in a cave and see the shadows of things. They believe these shadows to be the real representation of what the items truly are.

“the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.”

These shadows and symbols become their truth. If one person is freed and travels towards the light it wouldn’t be without discomfort and adjustment. Yet upon reaching the mouth of the cave the individual would see things for what they truly are and be able to contemplate his or her self and their relation to everything.

The truth and freedom from societal constructed fallacies.

I was trapped by the thought today, that upon birth we had all known this truth and freedom. We had all seen the light and true nature of things. It wasn’t until we began to be socialized and adjusted to norms that we started the descent into the cave and our eyes and minds began adjusting accordingly. We learned how to live in the cave.

I believe that I still know that the light and truth are there on some plane of existence I just can’t quite ascend too. Yet my spirit knows it and yearns for it.

We walk around haphazardly, busying ourselves and acquiring items, bank accounts, trinkets, degrees, and lovers while we try to find the light we once knew. Perhaps it is not the process of finding that we need to commit too but rather, the undoing of our unknowing. Accepting that we really know very little and we cannot cling to the shadows while claiming to be in search of the light.

We all have distractions and obstacles that need to be overcome. Ascension isn’t easy and rightfully so. To see the truth of things is a learned practice of sorts. For some one may need to overcome the incessant need to achieve and have accomplishments hanging about them. For others, distractions may look like a lovers hands or multiple lovers hands. In my case, I search for the light in men’s eyes, hoping that it’ll reflect a bit of mine back at me. If not that then one may cease this seemingly fruitless search for light and delve deeper into darkness through substances, narcotics, violence, jealousy, greed.

There was no light in crack pipes and coca cola mixed with rye.

Perhaps some of us have forgotten that the light has existed altogether.

Sometimes its easier to accept that something doesn’t exist rather than acknowledge we don’t know how to have it.

I like this notion though, that I only need to undo what I know to see what I truly know. It places the light inside of me.

With love,

Helen K


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