I remember the first time you knocked on my bedroom door to borrow my copy of “The Republic” by Plato. At first, I was hesitant to lend you my books. I know how much you let your mind wander in distant fields with no restraints. With your utter curiosity, your mind often bears the weight of thought from unchartered lands. And this eventually draws heavy on you: a weight I am not ready to be liable of.
But I remember how excited you were. How your eyes lit up when talking about excerpts from the book, and how the smallest change can bring revolution to society. Just last night, you were keen enough to tell me your favorite concept from the “allegory of the cave”: “You must have noticed in dishonest men with a reputation for sagacity the shrewd glance of a narrow intelligence piercing objects to which it is directed. There is nothing wrong with their power of vision, but it has been forced into the service of evil.”
I would often nod in agreement or express a brief “Hmm.” Then you’d let out a shy laugh thinking I am in disbelief. Admittedly, we haven’t had a long conversation about our personal views on social matters. We rarely eat dinner together. We only ever exchange banter or annoyance with each other.
I know that I’m not always available to listen to your musings, but let me share with you the things I have learned:
1) The ascent from the cave gives birth to the light of truth;
2) Once you can look at the Sun and contemplate its true nature, you would find its reflection in water absurd;
3) You would feel elated about this new-found wisdom, but you’ll carry the burden of feeling sorry for your fellow prisoners left in the cave;
4) Under the philosopher-king theory, a ruler who does not wish for political power is the fittest to rule;
5) Your journey out of the cave serves as the day of discernment where you may follow the path to the principle of truth. But it is for you to decide if you want to go back to the cave and be ridiculed by your fellow prisoners for carrying such a principle with you.
Perhaps you have also read Book VI of “The Republic” where Socrates compared society to a ship. He asked Adeimantus: “Who would you ideally want deciding who was in charge of the vessel? Just anyone or people educated in the rules and demands of seafaring?” For Socrates, as pointed out by Plato, voting is a skill that should be systematically taught. Allowing citizens to vote with random intuition is putting them in control of a ship sailing headfirst into the storm.
You were always a strategist. You knew too well how important it is to control the rigging of the ship. You were never coy in learning about the dictates of society. You always knew when to express dissent. Maybe after you have read enough of my books, we could debate who should rule, the philosopher, or the king?
Just like in the allegory, I know that your eyes are still dazed by the wonders of the world. But you’ll eventually get accustomed to the darkness of it: of the miseries in our social landscape and the anxiety of the coming elections.
I have had my share of expressing dismay on social issues but I have never really felt comfortable raving about it at home. Yet, with few words said, we are connected by the same principles. The books that you borrow from my shelf somehow fill the expanse between us—the same books whose pages my hands have flipped through and my mind have pondered on; the same books I have scribbled my scattered thoughts on. I have always been wary of lending my books, as they somehow reveal a part of me and what I stand for. But nothing makes me prouder than the day you asked me if you could borrow my books. And in the process, you discovered the dichotomy of choosing what is right or wrong.
It was just a week ago when we found out that you have already registered as a voter. When I heard your answer to our mother’s question, “Who are you voting for?” I couldn’t have been prouder. I want you to know that we share the same candidate whose vision is not coupled with the service of evil.
I’ll be voting with you today. As you take your step inside your precinct, know that you’re walking with principle.
You are free to borrow more of my books in the coming days. Your journey has just begun. You are ready to take on the storm. I’m just here to witness it all.
Remember to seize your own firelight.