Allegorical Journey of a Thousand Faces

IMAGINE for a moment, that there were two men and two women bound in wooden chairs and facing a movie screen in a pitch-black theatre. They are bound in neck braces that prohibit them from turning around to see behind them.

Now, imagine that these two men and two women had been bound since a young age so that all they could see are the images on the screen. These images are only in grayscale and black and white. The scenes that play out before them are of trees changing leaves in the seasons, mountains and sunsets. There might even be scenes of people making love or eating food. Now also imagine, that the men were given a remote control, on which is a button they could press, which would allow them to replay scenes they found enjoyable and pleasurable, but the women were not. The men could pass the remote to the women, but why would they do so? As the years pass by, this is their only experience. When suddenly, the woman on the furthest end breaks out of her bounds and takes off the neck brace. As she looks behind her, she can see the projector that is playing the scenes out on the screen. She can see that the men have a remote that allows them to choose which scenes are played. Her first instinct and inclination, is to grab the remote and change the scenes to ones she finds enjoyable. But suddenly her vision adjusts and she sees lights on the floor leading to a door at the back of the theatre. She taps the other woman on the shoulder and tells her she too can escape her captivity. But the woman refuses to accept what the first woman says. So, the free woman leaves and follows the lights to the exit. Opening the door, she steps out of the theatre into sunlight. And she sees the beauty of color for the first time ever. At first her eyes have trouble adjusting, but eventually, as her senses, and her mind begin to process what she sees, she begins to understand the truth of the world. Excited at her enlightenment, she runs back into the theatre. And tells the other three that what they are watching is just a limited projection of the truth. She tries to describe the beauty of color, but she finds it is very difficult to completely and accurately describe what she has seen because the others cannot even understand the words she is trying to use. They don’t have the same experience or vocabulary.

Believing that she has a stronger connection with the other woman, she begs her to listen, that there is better way to be. But the woman refuses to want to change. So, the free woman begins to see that in order to free them, she must convince the woman that things are not as they seem. She tells her that the men have a remote control that allows them to choose which scenes to play. At first the woman is reluctant to believe. So, the free woman walks over and takes the remote out of the men’s hands and shows it to the other woman. She presses the buttons and shows her that the men have been hiding their control from her. She has just learned to believe it is the way of things. But seeing the free woman controlling the scenes, the other woman begins to believe. The men, upset at having lost the remote demand they are given it back, but there is no going back. And so, the second woman breaks her bounds, but she still refuses to leave the chair or take off the neck brace, but she holds the remote and chooses the images she wants to see. The second man, though unhappy with his loss of power, resigns himself to the fact that the women should have the power of the remote as well. The other man keeps trying to take the remote back.

Yet, now that the free woman has spoken truth, the second woman is willing to take off the neck brace and she follows the first outside to experience the truth of life. The first woman doesn’t want to free the men, but the second does and she returns to the theatre. The first goes with her understanding it is their responsibility to show the others the truth. The men inside the theatre once again have control of the remote and they are now fighting amongst each other for control of the remote. The second woman asks them why they are fighting over the remote when the truth about life is just outside and much more beautiful than what they are looking at now. One of the men relinquishes control of the remote and leaves his place in the theatre and follows the women outside. He too now understands the truth.

Filled with wonder about the truth, they all return to the final man. They tell him of the wondrous scenes that are real and true. But he refuses to listen. He clings to his remote, gripping it with white knuckles, and his eyes are glued to the screen. To which he yells: “This is the truth! This is the truth!” The second woman shows him a flower she had picked from outside, but in the darkness of the theatre he refuses to look at it and calls her a false teacher. He is unwilling to see the truth about the world because he has the power and control and it is all he knows. He is afraid to let go of it, and so he continues on in the ignorance of his existence. This journey is the one that all humankind has gone through. There is no doubt that looking at black and white scenes of nature: sunsets, mountains, and the changing colors of leaves in the fall, could be beautiful. And people may even have a genuine connection to that experience. But the problem is it’s a limited experience, yet they believe it is the be all and end all of everything. It is all they have unknown, and some people cling to the emotional response they had with the black and white pictures, unwilling to let the possibility of a better experience that is completely different.

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