Plato Heard the Sound of Silence

Socrates: imagine this.

Hello darkness, my old friend

I’ve come to talk with you again.

There is a scary parallel between the wise words of Plato and the harmonious voice and lyrics of Paul Simon. Plato, one of the greatest philosophers dives deep down into his mind, only to be confronted by a frightening image. Paul Simon finds frequent inspiration in the darkness. In this instance, Paul Simon so happens to be in the dark, on his bathroom floor, only to discover the same image Plato has discovered in his famous allegory—the Cave.

Stretching a long way up toward the daylight is its entrance, toward which the entire cave is gathered. The people have been in this dwelling since childhood, shackled by the legs and neck.

And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more

People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share

No one dared

Disturb the sound of silence.

In Plato’s vision he sees, by the bright light of the cave, people shackled by their legs and necks. He says that they have been shackled since childhood. Paul Simon sees “in the naked light” thousands of people shackled, too. They speak, without speaking. There is no depth to their speech. They speak about trivial things with no significance. People hearing without listening. Some try to unshackle these poor creatures. They speak to them. They give them answers so that they may have a chance to escape the prison of the cave, but their words go in one ear and out the other. They are men and woman shackled to the world.

The world no longer cares for things of depth. Our minds and eyes move to the object that flickers most. The things that attract us are those things that bring us the most pleasure. No one wants anything to do with things that have some depth to them, because they do not know how to handle such a thing. We are shackled. We live in a world of constant noise. We live in a world that yearns for instant gratification. We are shackled by the empty things of the world. We are in the cave.

From the beginning people like this have never managed, whether on their own or with the help by others, to see anything besides the shadows that are [continually] projected on the wall opposite them by the glow of the fire.

And the people bowed and prayed

To the neon god they made

And the sign flashed out its warning

In the words that it was forming

And the sign said, “The words of the prophets

Are written on the subway walls

And tenement halls.”

Plato continues to say that these people in the cave, have always thought the same. Whatever is on the wall of the cave is truth, and the people hold it as such. Paul Simon sings that the people bow and pray to their god that they made. They are told that the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls. In short, the words written are their truth.

We are surrounded by people that all think the same, robots, people that cannot formulate their own thoughts or have their own opinions. We hold the popular opinion as truth, because if we don’t, we may not fit in. We let other people think for us. We are in the cave. Plato saw this and wrote about it. Paul Simon saw this and sung about it. They realized that society is stuck.

Silence like a cancer grows.

The silence of those that are not shackled is like a cancer. Sooner or later they are infected by the disease due to their silence and it spreads throughout their body and moves into the next, until everyone worships the shadows and the writings on the wall.

This is our solution! If this silence is a cancer, then we cannot be silent. We cannot be like robots, programmed to think a certain way. If we are silent, then we are no better than those that are shackled, standing together, looking at the walls of the cave. We must speak our opinion. We must ask those in the cave to take our hand that we may show them the way. We must somehow draw their eyes away from the “neon-light”. We must get to the point where people are talking and speaking. Where people are hearing and listening.

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