Achieving an Abundant Life
Have you ever wanted to find the answer to your problems and live in such a state without the misconceptions of reality? According to Plato everything in our world is just an image of the perfect object. In The Cave by Plato he describes how these people are chained up and they see these shadows on the wall. These shadows are an example of the objects we see in our everyday life (the visible world). Plato says that there is such a presence of “The Good” and that this Good rules this perfect spiritual world in which there is only truth and knowledge. I believe that the good that Plato is talking about is symbolic of God. God is the almighty ruler of the spiritual world, which Plato describes, but does not give any name to The Good. What Plato also does not do is provide us with how to get out of the cave. He tells us that outside the cave is this greatness and makes people want to reach it. Which brings up many questions including: How does someone escape the cave and reach the good? One must give up materialistic goods in order to live an abundant life because material goods only provide temporary happiness and distract from leading you to “The Good”.
It can be assumed that one must give up something in order to live an abundant life if it only provides temporary happiness and distracts from leading you to The Good. The term abundant life comes from the bible verse John 10:10 "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." One may think that having an abundant life includes having an abundance of goods, but this is not the case. Living an abundant life refers to life in its abounding fullness of joy and strength for mind, body, and soul. This is essentially living in the light of the good, and for Christians this is being in the glory of God. In order to fulfill an abundant life you must first realize that there is something that is providing you with a lack of being satisfied in your life. This feeling may motivate someone want to find out the meaning of life and seek a change for the better. One may reach towards external goods in the physical world and depend on them, but they will not provide ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment. Reaching out and using material goods to fulfill your need for satisfaction will only fulfill your worldly needs and never give you spiritual enlightenment. The world is filled with an abundance of material goods that can please the mind and body for the moment, but they distract from leading you to The Good or truth. Plato, in his allegory of the cave, gives way in a secretive manner about how to escape the cave. Plato talks about how these prisoners are chained up and that all they perceive to be true are the shadows on the wall. I believe Plato is getting at how our world is just like the cave in many ways. The cave is a symbol for the physical world we live in. The shadows on the wall are a symbol for all of the external goods in our world. These external goods distract us from what lies outside of our world just as the shadows distract from what is outside of the cave. While we are distracted by these shadows we may never know that there is even anything different from what we know to be reality. The sun, our source of perception, is a symbol for The Good, which I believe to be God. The shadows in the cave are all based on each prisoner’s own opinion and belief and give them the same temporary happiness we receive from our own external goods which are perceived by the light of the sun, rather than the light of God. Plato then talks about the removal of the guy from the cave with the shadows and his enlightenment by the sun. “And so, finally, I suppose, he would be able to look upon the sun itself and see its true nature, not by reflections in water or phantasms of it in an alien setting, but in and by itself in its own place” (Plato, 667). What Plato is talking about is that once we remove ourselves from the shadows in the cave we can see The Good for all that it is meant to be seen as. In the case of The Cave the man had to be removed from the cave in order to see The Good, but for us we can only give up our material possessions in order to live a life with an abundance of joy and strength for the mind and body. The road to living an abundant life is not an easy one. For centuries religions have been practicing ways in order to live this sort of life. In Buddhism there is a retreat you can go on and take a ten day vow of silence. This vow of silence allows you to think deeply, meditate, and dig deeper into the spiritual world. No distractions, such as worldly objects, reading materials, or even eye contact are allowed. Meditation is a must because meditation allows you to discover knowledge, truth, and understanding with reason. For many this is an escape out of the cave into the knowledge and truth of the good. In The Republic by Plato, he states “When the soul beholds the realm illuminated by the splendor of truth and reality it knows and understands and so appears to possess reason” (198). This means that when a person engages in the spiritual world filled with raw truth and after they understand it they can have the capacity to make sense of things. With regards to the 10 day vow of silence journey one must forgo all communication and material objects so that they may discover the truth that they are looking for without any shadows to provide false belief. To contrast with my ideas, one may say that you need material goods in order to live an abundant life and that those items can lead you to the good. For example, money, a way we exchange for goods and services in order to get what we want. So is it possible that with money, the base of all material goods, one may buy their way to an abundant life? Money can in fact lead you to an abundant life because money can be used in a certain way to increase overall happiness and joy. Society in general seeks out to get rich and achieve this sense of the “American Dream”. People may try to use money to provide themselves with pleasure and joy which is what you seek for to live a good life. When in fact, the key is using the money to spend and give to others. Spending money on others has been proven to improve overall happiness in people rather than if they were to spend that money on themselves. In a recent study surveying 600 Americans, results were that greater happiness was directly correlated after spending more on gifts and charities. Another study was done in which two groups of students were given either $5 or $20 and the group that was told to spend it on other people however they may choose were happier at the end of the day rather than the group that had spent it on themselves. Perhaps spending money on other people is the same as giving up material goods. What gives you a sense of fulfillment in life are not the material goods themselves, but the act of giving them away to others. It may not be the way of abandoning all possessions because they distract from leading you to the ultimate good, but giving up the goods onto others to lead you to living the way of an abundant life outside of the cave. The human race craves the feeling of an abundant life. The world can sometimes be overwhelming with all of the distractions we have in society. If one discovers how to get away from all of our shadows the world has to offer then, won’t we want to show it to our peers and community members? Plato says, “Well then, if he recalled to his mind his first habitation and what passed for wisdom there, and his fellow bondsmen, do you think that he would count himself happy in the change and pity them?” (667) The man is happy in the change because he has just discovered the truth. He has escaped the darkness and shadows; so would he not want to bring his fellow peers from the cave up into The Good? Possibly they would make fun of him and laugh at his ridiculous ideas that there could be such a thing that is so powerful in truth and providing enlightenment. Just as when Christians discover God and have seen the power of God through a miracle or perhaps live an abundant spiritual life. It would make sense that the people stuck in the cave also would want to do the same as the man that came out of the cave, and just as he would get laughed at so would the Christians because the people in the cave are still caught up with the shadows of life that they do not see or want to believe there is anything else other than what they know. From here we must go out and show people that there is a way out of the cave into The Good, and this way is by giving up the material goods in our life.