Shadows on the Wall

During a bi-weekly conference call with the team, we were stating intentions around our work and then contemplating possibilities behind the direction we want to go. We then discussed what limitations could arise that would perhaps stop us from creating the opportunities behind the stated intention. As we were working the exercise, I began to ponder about the ever-popular process of intending and why plans sometimes fail to come to fruition, leading to disappointment. I contemplated that there is much more to it and that it is more complex than we realize. As I pondered, a picture of a “Y” appeared in my mind’s eye, along with Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.”

I won’t fully explain Plato’s body of work, but I will give a short synopsis: The story involves three prisoners chained in a cave since birth facing one wall. Behind the prisoners was the opening of the cave. People, carts, animals, etc., would walk by the mouth of the cave, casting shadows on the wall facing the prisoners. The prisoners began to believe that the shadows were reality. Then one of the prisoners was set free and went out of the cave. At first, the prisoner was too blinded by light to see anything. Once he adjusted to the intensity, the prisoner began to see that there was vastly more to life than the shadow projections on the cave wall. He began to understand that the shadows were reflections. The enlightened prisoner went back to the other prisoners to proclaim his findings excitedly, he wanted them to be free to experience what he had, but they became hostile, thought him mad, and proceeded to kill him.

What does Plato have to do with setting intentions? Here is what it means to me: Consider being held in a place, and seduced by a finite existence looking at shadows on the wall with the same three people. It becomes easy to cling tightly to a perspective when that is all there is to consider. The ability to conceive other possibilities becomes numb.  Even if someone comes to present a fantastic new reality to us from their experience outside the cave, we do not believe them from our prisoner-status and tightly held vantage point. We, too, might “kill the messenger” to keep the status quo. Does any of this ring true? When perspectives are limited, intentions are likewise limited and become akin to wishes that fail to manifest a new reality. Even if we can wish or dream about a new reality and firmly intend to create it, we still can not create anew from a limited vantage point. We only end up re-creating the same shadows on the wall. Are we are that potent at creation? The answer is yes, and to create anew, we have to override what we perceived in the cave.

Now for the Y. To me, it represents a symbolic crossroads. Facing two paths, which do I choose? It would be nice if the choice were black and white like the classic “Matrix” red and blue pill scene. A cool guide shows up and points out that one way is known. That one gets taken over and over and renders the same result. Or choose otherwise, leave this reality, and have your mind blown with possibilities. When you know what you are looking at, the choice-point is simplistic. But what seems simple is far from easy when you live in a cave. Indeed, the grander possibilities seem the most enticing choice, but what is it going to mean to take that pill? What if it means saying goodbye to all you have ever known? Now, what do you think about that choice?

You see, going for the mind-blowing path requires a lot from us. Unlike Neo in the “Matrix,” that track does not always jet-set instantaneously into a new reality upon taking the pill. Most of us energetically level-up over time. By level-up, I mean that we transform on a pathway slowly. Like the prisoner set loose from the cave, the ability to take in so much light, and information was not instantaneous. He came from a dark place after all and had to adjust to the intensity of the sun before he could see anything anew, much less gain another perspective.

So, there is not one Y, there are many, and most choices are not so dramatic; black and white, red or blue. What I am talking about here is evaluating perspectives at the Y point. Intention does not address perception, but perception has everything to do with the result of a purpose. When standing at the Y intending something beyond the cave, it is necessary to leave to experience something beyond it.

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