Allegory of the Cage – A Way of Viewing and Deciding Upon the World We Live In
Many of us would accept it as an axiom that we are all interconnected. Now for some reason this isn’t readily apparent to just everyone yet, possibly because it isn’t always obvious. It takes some viewing through a layer or two of perspective, but ultimately we are connected infinitely in innumerable ways. From the second we emerge into the world, we are utterly dependent upon other humans, our forebears and others, for survival. Without that help, and the help of others throughout life, we would literally die. Throughout life it’s not so clear-cut as it is for an infant, but without the interaction with others we would be lost. The “lone wolf” idea, where it comes to humans, is not applicable – for that matter, neither is it for wolves. We sometimes get overwhelmed with toxic human relationships that no longer serve our growth, and without the maturity of sight that comes with experience it’s easy enough to project all of humanity onto the relationships we’ve had so far. Ideally, we should move forward in a generally upward direction, improving ourselves and our relationships with time. Unfortunately, often enough, this isn’t what happens in experience – many of us tend to project our hopes, dreams, fears and demons onto others and get angry when other individuals don’t accept our ideas of fairness. Either way, we are teaching each other and learning from each other at all times, for better or for worse. It’s a two-way street, to be fair: the individual usually ahead in age is in the position to offer help, in exchange for the ability to teach. The individual in a position of learning and needing material help has the opportunity to learn, teach, and provide service. In turn, everybody helps each other in a teach-learn-serve triangle of relationship.
Where it comes to the world, which in our thought represents the sum-total of all interactions between all humans on the planet Earth, there is a group decision on what reality looks like. In the scientific sense, we commonly think of reality as what we can experience and interact with with the five senses, but as far as what reality as it is experienced by the end-user, the individual, there is very much more at play. If the world were only billiard balls, planets, asteroids, and random bits of matter, things might be easier for this physicists’ dream of a reality. In the natural world, we’re discovering more and more there is a community and communication that is currently blowing away science. In human experience, things are complicated, multi-dimensional, and somehow intrinsically human. In this way, you could think, the reality that an ant experiences is very different from the one that plays before our senses. The world we live in, the thoughts we think, the words we use, the food we eat, the houses we live in, the computers we type or read on right now are all the resulting confluence of the human reality people have constructed together over the ages.
Every time we interact, from the moment of birth, there is a structure created around the accepted norms of the relationship – the roles of each individual involved and what’s fair conduct. We could see the structure of this interaction as a cage, forgetting the negative connotation there (science ppl could think of it as a Faraday cage, ok?) around the world and simply thinking of it as a structure which binds the participants to an agreed-upon space. This is true of the most essential interaction, such as mother-infant, just as well as the tax code that defines so much of our economic and governmental activities. When we are thinking about big organizations like corporations (for-profit or non-profit), the government, churches, and other institutions, we need to learn to think in terms of the total goal, the sum-total cage or agreed-upon acceptable interactions as we live, love, learn, grow, and do business on this planet. Generally it is an acceptable norm to participate in a way of making money (the agreed-upon norm of earning a living in our global society) that may or may not harm the planet’s ecology or total population, directly or indirectly, but it’s just something you do to avoid becoming homeless or starving, which are also normal consequences in this society.
We have a choice, and we are always making agreements on this – the shape reality takes for all the people living in it together. The cage can be tinselly and ritzy, made of empty shiny things like gold and rhinestones, with some coveting what shouldn’t be that big of a deal anyway and posing guards around making everyone think they want it. It could also be a rainbow of color, a tapestry of motion, with infinite varieties of life and wormholes leading this way and that and possibly even letting the birds of this cage experience other cages if for a brief moment. In actual life this can be seen as the decision one individual makes to brave the unknown of international travel or trusting to let a stranger stay with them for a night – or on the macro, a society, our policies that allow for international commerce, travel and immigration.
Where it comes to decisions such as the President of one country or another, it’s a silly exercise to focus on the specifics of one or the other person (arguably IMO the President should be abolished as an institution and replaced with a direct-democratic consensus platform) but rather, if you have to decide at all, imagine at the kind of cage they would contribute to or build for the sum-total to live in. Which leads to a world that we actually want to live in? Unfortunately in the particular case of the US Presidency, we are usually not left with very good options and in fact both seem to be nominated by the same management systems and result in the same self-fulfilling prophecy of a world unable to come to grips with itself and increasingly more confined for all the inhabitants. For those commonalities though there are fundamental differences in worldview and world-potential that are important. Barring sudden drastic change such as full-scale revolutions which have not proved successful or at least seem to bear the seeds of their own destruction as they say, as a world we hopefully move incrementally forward, improving consciousness and awareness for all humans as we do so. Even though it might not seem like it sometimes, I believe humans are generally more aware in many ways than their predecessors, even if as a group we don’t always act like it. Generally, it’s a good idea to see every single interaction, even in thought, as an opportunity to either improve or downgrade the reality we all occupy. If we can make the fundamental shift into global thinking, “seeing” change as the results of our actions as individuals cast on a global projector, the sum-total agreement of what comprises reality as we know it that I am calling the cage can improve.
Or, to quote Dr. Seuss’ Lorax, “Unless a lot of people care a whole awful lot, things are not going to get better, they’re not.”