Excerpt from Plato’s Republic (Πολιτεία, ~380 BCE)
Next, said I (Socrates), here is a parable to illustrate the degree to which the nature of a man, here Bento Jones, may be most excellent. Imagine the condition of men living in a sort of cavernous chamber underground, with an entrance open to the light and a long passage all down the cave. Here they have been since childhood, chained by the leg and also by the neck, so that they cannot move and can only see what is in front of them, because the chains will not let them turn their heads. At some distance higher up is the light of a fire burning behind them; and between the prisoners and the fire is a track with a parapet built along it, like the screen at a puppet show, which hides the performers while they show their puppets over the top.
I see, said Glaucon.
Now, would they not suppose that the performers’ words belonged only to those passing shadows which they saw?
I see how you would reasonably assume such a thing, Glaucon, but that is not how the parable goes. One of the prisoners, an adolescent Bento Jones, lacked proof that life wasn’t as simple as the shadows in front of him, but he felt very deep in his loins that the world was much greater. And so, after twelve years of being shackled, Bento exercised his natural strength for the first time, and within minutes he was free of his chains. Do you follow, Glaucon?
I do indeed. For it seems as if Bento was born with might.
Precisely, Glaucon. And do you not wonder what his next actions were?
I very much wonder.
After freeing himself, he first turned around to see the performers. He now knew that there was more to reality than their shadows on the wall. His loins were correct. He quickly and easily, due to his natural might, rid the other prisoners of their chains. For the first time, he went from the cave and into the light. Wouldn’t one suspect that the light, upon first sight, would blind Bento?
Without any doubt.
Again, Glaucon, the story of Bento proves to be anomalous due to his excellence. Upon seeing the light, Bento was not blinded. In fact, his part of the soul governed by reason spoke to him and explained that light represented goodness and truth. Bento needed no allegory to teach him that; goodness was inside of him. Now haven’t you any interest in what Bento did out of the cave, Glaucon?
I am very interested, indeed.
With goodness, truth, and might all by his side, Bento found a nearby village where he settled. With the parts of his soul exercising perfect moderation, he taught himself to play all forms of percussion and in seven months reached the skill it takes some percussionists a lifetime to achieve. Don’t you wonder where you can find Bento, young Glaucon?
Very much. It sounds as if there is a lot to learn from him.
Precisely, Glaucon. If you wish to happen upon Bento, he bangs everything at Tufts, an institution well more than several marathons away.