Plato’s Guide on Life
“Damn, life’s great. I don’t need anything else”.
This was the extreme level of happiness that I started to feel once I detached myself from the illusions of the world. Illusions as in the things that we socially agree on as humanity but no one really ever questions, most people blindly follow them and they end up hurting us.
Things like buying fancy cars, living in a mansion, or becoming rich.
These things never made any sense to me. Of course, I have desires (mainly to make the world a better place, work on developing nations, start my own company etc.) but a lot of these innately come from my desire to help others.
I think that if you have achieved fulfillment on a basic level (food, water, a place to live, etc.) in life then there’s no reason for you to not be happy. The bottom two tiers on the Maslow hierarchy of needs describe these well:
When I realized this, I became a lot more grateful for life and started to value things like social interactions over getting the highest marks, for example.
Unfortunately, there’s an invisible force in this world that turns people into selfish, ungrateful, and generally miserable creatures.
It’s a mix of materialism + perceived reality. We start to fall into the trap of society where we value things like wealth way more than it should be. This is all very intuitive and wouldn't be true if we didn't decide on it as a society. For example, we say that both the sky and the sea are blue, even though they are all different shades.
You can’t really understand things unless you question them but you can’t question things unless you are in tune with reality.
SOOOO…. naturally I did some searching and discovered this philosopher Plato (basically god) that has some interesting theories about perceived vs. true reality.
What’s up with Plato?
Plato is a Greek philosopher, known for his Dialogues and for founding his Academy north of Athens, which was considered the first university in the western world.
When he was in his late teens or early twenties, Plato heard Socrates (this other slightly odd philosopher who I also wrote about here) teaching in the market and abandoned his plans to pursue a literary career as a playwright and devoted himself to philosophy. #UnconventionalPath.
Ever since then he has been studying different types of forms, ideas, knowledge and understanding how as humans we can achieve happiness.
Plato’s Theory on Reality
Plato had a very interesting worldview. Plato concluded that everything in our world is only a copy of a perfect form existing on another planet.
The world is divided into two realms: the material realm of appearances (things we can perceive through our senses: a tree, a car, a table, a chair, a beautiful model, etc.), which is imperfect and constantly changing (the table will start to get worn down, the beautiful model will age with time).
Then there is a realm of ideas or “forms” which is perfect, unchanging and eternal (things that change, decay, and ultimately fade away).
Everything in our material realm is only a copy of the perfect form of that thing/concept in the perfect realm. The difference here is that the material realm can be perceived through our senses, but the realm of the forms can only be perceived through intellect and contemplation.
His Allegory of the Cave Analogy
Image an underground cave, this is basically what it looks like:
Inside of this cave is a group of prisoners chained and they’re only able to see what is in front of them. Behind the prisoners is a fire in front of which men walk carrying objects that cast shadows on the walls of the cave. Since all they’ve been exposed to are these images, the prisoners naturally come to think that the shadows on the wall are just reality.
But there’s a twist… (of course)
One of the prisoners escapes and escapes from the darkness of the cave. He then realizes that what he is experiencing outside the cave is a reality, and all he thought was real was just an illusion. He goes back and tried to convince the other prisoners of this but in the end, the other prisoners kill him because they’re so convinced that the shadows they experience inside the cave are the only true reality.
This explains how we are so unaware of the realm of the forms. We only know what we know and we only see what we see.
It’s exactly this kind of programming and social conditioning that gets in the way of living a happy and fulfilled life. We constantly want more because in the material realm things are constantly changing. More what? More money, more friends, more cars, more social media followers, and so on.
Still, most things in life only hold true because at one point humanity agreed on it. This was crazy to me: without the existence of a form of a circle, we would not be able to imagine a perfect circle, because it’s not found in nature.
Achieving True Happiness
If we are continuously stuck on things that are changing and imperfections, there’s no real hope that we will be able to attain true happiness in life. This is why philosophy rocks because with philosophical understanding can we break free of the illusions by sensible things and grasp higher forms such as beauty, truth, and goodness which are the true sources of happiness.
People who are able to put their intellect above their senses are able to gain a real understanding of the world. They start to break things down to fundamentals and don’t classify them by the surface level materialistic characteristics.
The lesson here is to:
- Develop A TON of gratitude for life.
- Distinguish yourself from the illusions of sensible things (aka., usually things that we blindly follow in society).
- Start to question things and create your own opinions on them.
Once you do these three things, you’ll be opened up to a new reality & will start to feel a greater sense of fulfillment.