October 14, 2019

Shadows on a Cave Wall

Sitting in a semi-lotus position on hard stones, Plato watched flickering shadows cavort on the cave wall. He had the bemused look of someone who was confident the shadows weren’t real in any meaningful sense. They were there for a moment’s fleeting entertainment, pale imitations of essences he was sure existed.

Plato chuckled at the foolishness of people who spent time–often an entire life–measuring, dissecting and building with the puny tools of reason foisted on them by Aristotle and his ilk. They took appearances made of shadow matter–so much fairy dust–entirely too seriously.

Thinking about the meaning of the ideal and the real and shadows and skyscrapers and the godhead gave Plato a headache. So he took two Excedrin capsules and started to scan the local paper. Of course, Plato knew the paper and its contents, like everything else, were just shadows, but he was a prudent man who always hedged his bets and worried at the fringes.

So he read the paper pretending there might be something useful in it. What that might be he could not imagine. But perhaps reading the paper would calm the disquietude brought on by a few haunting questions: What if God is a cosmic jokester? What if the shadows are all there is? What if there are no ideals? No essences? What if that damned Aristotle is right? Worse yet, what if the rough warrior existentialists are right?

After reading the comics and sports, Plato glanced at the opinion page and saw a name that would change his life forever. It was a name that once and for all would settle the question of whether he was right or Aristotle was right. “Danielle Garcia.” “Danielle Garcia.” “Danielle Garcia.” The two words burned into Plato’s mind.

A 24-year-old receptionist at Kaiser Permanente, Danielle was destined to doom Plato, vanquish ideals and leave the world and its future to mechanics with only a dull interest in slicing, dicing and rearranging glitzy furniture on the Titanic.

And the bitter irony, Plato thought, was that Danielle Garcia had no idea she was a revolutionary whose effect would far exceed that of minor-leaguers like Che Guevara and Malcom X. She had no idea she was a true major league star. Plato read the prophet’s few words: “I’m really in awe of name-brand things. I want to feel glamorous. I want everyone to look at me. I want to have a lot of attention.”

Now thinking nostalgically about how an earlier revolutionary had exchanged water for wine, Plato read that Danielle exchanged a pair of $305 Chanel sunglasses for the $325 Christian Dior ones because a friend had bought the same pair.

It was, after all, Danielle’s version of transubstantiation–her version of a miracle.

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