Don’t Be Afraid To Be Coffee
Again, I am writing from the seat of a flight. This time, its United 369 from San Antonio to Denver. And yes, there is at least one bloody Mary involved. I’ve read the newspaper and caught up on e-mails. Now, I have less than an hour to fly, so lets get started with today’s post.
I was not smart enough to major in anything like philosophy in college, but I have always had an interest in the subject. I just don’t know anything about it. A couple of years ago, some dear friends invited my wife, kids and me to the south of France for vacation. Let me say, I highly recommend the experience. It was a great week. But, there was no television. At least there was no television I could understand. I had no choice but to engage in human communication and to read. What I didn’t know was that this trip was going to be an important stop on my perpetual journey towards spirituality and peace.
The villa we stayed in was magnificent. There were five couples (with kids) in all. During the day, individual families explored side trips to Niece, San Tropez and Monte Carlo, but we all gathered together for huge outside dinner each evening, under a magnificent Cote d’ Azure sky. We shared our experiences of the day and listened to our children s’ excited stories about their adventures. Miles, the middle child, took a particular interest in the topless beaches in Cannes. That boy.
After the kids were all in bed, after wolfing down rich dessert and coffee, and after the last cigar was smoked, I just couldn’t sleep. Back at home, my normal routine would have been to watch Sportscenter, but the French were apparently boycotting ESPN. So, I had to read. And so I did.
Very soon, I came across a story by the great philosopher Plato. It was called The Parable of the Cave. It is a story about several men who are imprisoned in a cave, by an ogre from a very young age. The men are bound together so tightly, they cannot move their heads, or even their eyes. They can only look forward, at the wall of the cave. They have been in this cave for so long, its all they can remember. They can see shadows on the wall and they can hear voices as people walk around outside, but this is all they know. It has been so long that the men think the shadows they see are the real world. They have been there for so long, they are used to it.
One day, one of the men manages to break free. He turns around and, for the first time, he realizes he has been living in a cave. He sees light, but his eyes are slow to adjust. When they do, he goes to the entrance and sees there is a whole world out there. He sees people talking and walking about. He realizes the images he saw on the wall of the cave were nothing more than shadows cast by people outside of the cave. He goes back to the cave to share his knowledge with the others and to set them free. But, by now, the others are used to their way of thinking and they are content to treat their meager experience as life, as reality. The other prisoners do not welcome the news, instead, they want to kill the messenger.
Plato’s lesson is that your reality may not be what you think it is. He also said its hard to look at what may be the truth when you are so used to what you see everyday. Plato believed although people may have forgotten what is reality, they can remember it again. He called the process anamnesis. If you have read this blog before, you know we call it forgiveness.
I have often thought about the story of the cave. It resonated with me. I started to ask myself some questions about my true nature, and if I really wanted to know the answer. I mean, if someone really traveled from the future and visited me, would I believe them? Would you? Baby steps.
And then, there is the oft-told tale of the carrot, the egg and the coffee beans. There are many variations, but the gist of it goes something like this. One day, a wise man had a student who was having a hard time with life. It just seemed things weren’t going the way of the student’s plans and it was all just becoming too overwhelming. The wise man saw a teaching moment and put three pots of water on the stove and brought them all to a boil. In the first pot he placed a carrot, in the second he placed an egg, and in the last he placed some ground coffee beans.
He explained to his student that we all think we have a nature, but that the stresses and pressures of life can test that nature. How you respond to those pressures, can reveal your nature—or at least how you see yourself. The boiling water put tremendous stress and pressure on our three commodities. The carrot completely wilted under the pressure. The egg hardened inside—surviving the stress, but becoming rigid, hard and unyielding. But, the coffee beans changed the nature of the water. They transformed ordinary hot water and made coffee. The wise man asked his student what he would be in the face of stress, the carrot, the egg or the coffee beans.
Our true nature is that of spirit, not the bodies we appear to be. This is just a temporary state—we’ve just forgotten it. We can remember that true nature through forgiveness. Facing that nature can be scary, like it was for the prisoners confronted with a different reality than the shadows on the cave wall. Or, for that matter, it was scary for the coffee beans to face the boiling water! But the shadows were only shadows, even if the prisoners thought they were real. And the coffee completely transformed the utility of the beans. Consider, just for a minute, what your true nature is. Remember the cave and don’t be afraid to be coffee.
New Website Coming!
How many times have I said this? I know. Its coming. Be patient. The new designer is great and the site promises to be more professional and user-friendly. Announcement coming soon. In the meantime, thank you for all of the support, emails and tweets!
Author 101 University
I don’t know Rick Frishman personally, but I subscribe to his newsletter and I bought the audio program to his Author 101 University. I shared my blog address with Rick and he emailed me and asked if I would mention his upcoming program in Las Vegas. Its October 29 – 31. I gladly agreed. I got a lot out of the audio program and would attend in person, if weren’t my wife’s birthday weekend. Here’s the link to Rick’s program: http://www.author101university.com . If you have the great American novel you want to get down on paper, its the place to be. By the way I am not affiliated with Author 101 University in any way, and do not receive any compensation. He just comes across as a good guy.