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  • The word "enlightened" means to bring light to something, or in other words, to remove

  • darkness.

  • If you bring a lamp to a dark room, you enlighten it.

  • And the same thing can happen to your mind.

  • If light is brought to your inner darkness, then you become enlightened.

  • And what's the difference between being in the light and being in the dark?

  • In the light, you see more clearly.

  • An enlightened person has increased perspicuity, which just means clarity of vision, as opposed

  • to blurriness or blindness.

  • And when one's vision is clear, they more easily reach the places they set out for.

  • But in the dark, you may feel confused, lost, and unable to reach your goals.

  • The word enlightenment has this mystical connotation about it, but it actually a very grounded

  • and human thing.

  • It's simply unobstructed vision.

  • Think about it like this: sometimes we're born with, or develop, cataracts in our eyes.

  • Our vision is obstructed.

  • We can't see clearly.

  • Enlightenment is simply the removal of this obstruction.

  • It's a return to clear sight, and some people are just born with clear vision.

  • So how does someone become enlightened?

  • In his _Allegory of the Cave_, Plato tells a story describing the path from ignorance

  • to enlightenment.

  • Here's how it goes.

  • There's a cave with a few prisoners inside of it, and all of them are shackled against

  • a wall.

  • Their heads are locked in place and only allowed to look forward.

  • In front of them there's a wall, and behind them there's a bridge, and behind that bridge

  • there's a fire.

  • As people walk across the bridge with objects in their hands, the fire behind the bridge

  • casts a shadow of those objects onto the wall in front of the prisoners.

  • Because the prisoners have never seen anything else but these shadows, they think they are

  • the realest things that exist.

  • Even the voices they hear behind them they attribute to these shadows.

  • And since these prisoners have nothing better to do, they spend their life becoming experts

  • on these shadows.

  • They memorize their shapes, sequence, sounds, so on and so forth.

  • But one day, one of the prisoners breaks free.

  • He looks behind him and sees the flame, and at first it hurts his eyes.

  • He's not used to the light.

  • But instead of going back to the comfortable shadows, he allows his eyes to adjust so he

  • can look upon the fire.

  • Then he notices the objects passing back and forth in front of it, and he realizes that

  • they were casting the shadows on the wall.

  • He realizes that everything he believed about the shadows was false.

  • They are not the realest things.

  • So he makes his way out of the cave.

  • He steps out into the light, and again, the brightness is painful to his eyes.

  • But instead of going back to the comfort of his cave, he gives his eyes a chance to adjust.

  • First he looks at just the shadows of things.

  • Then he looks at their reflection in the water.

  • And then he looks upon the things themselves.

  • He starts to look at the stars in the night sky, and finally, he looks upon the sun itself,

  • and he realizes that it's the reason he's able to see anything at all.

  • Let's call this man the philosopher.

  • The philosopher goes back to the cave to tell the other prisoners everything that he saw,

  • but how can he explain it to them?

  • Having been in the light so long, his eyes are no longer accustomed to the dark.

  • He can no long distinguish between the different shadows like he used to, and as a result,

  • the other prisoners think he's crazy.

  • They think he's been ruined by his journey up to the light.

  • But if the philosopher gives his eyes time to adjust to the shadows once more, he can

  • communicate with the prisoners more clearly.

  • He can tell them exactly what it is that they're looking atthe actual source of those shadows.

  • But what good would the description be to the prisoners?

  • What could they really understand about things they've never really seen?

  • What would it mean to them?

  • The goal of the philosopher isn't simply to describe that which really exists, but

  • to get the prisoners to see it for themselves.

  • So what stops the prisoners from seeing the truth for themselves?

  • And what quality does the philosopher have that allows him to see things as they are?

  • Vigilance.

  • The philosopher's mind is _vigilant_, attentive to its own errors, always watching for potential

  • threats.

  • When the philosopher witnesses the light of truth, it initially blinds him and makes him

  • uncomfortable, but he's willing to overcome that discomfort.

  • He gives his eyes time to adjust.

  • And by overcoming this initial discomfort, he sees his error.

  • And by seeing his error as an error, he overcomes it.

  • And what is an enlightened mind, if not a mind that has completely freed itself of its

  • own errors?

  • And how does this differ from the prisoner's mind?

  • The prisoner's mind is _ignorant_, ignoring its own errors, always looking for comfort.

  • When the prisoner witnesses the light of truth, it blinds him and makes him uncomfortable

  • too, but unlike the philosopher, he chooses to go back to the world of shadows, to the

  • world he knows and finds comfort in.

  • And by refusing to be uncomfortable, he falls deeper into error.

  • And what is an imprisoned mind, if not a mind that has fallen deeply into error and confusion.

  • It's all well and good to talk about vigilance and ignorance in theory, but what do they

  • look like in practice?

  • Imagine that you see that that a friend you've had for years is actually not a real friend.

  • They let you down in a difficult time when you desperately needed them to come through,

  • when they promised they would come through.

  • You can go back to the old ways, to the shadows, and just pretend you're good friends despite

  • that, or you can face the truth.

  • Accept that they're just someone you occasionally hang out with and nothing more than that.

  • You have two choices: will you become vigilant or remain ignorant?

  • What will happen if you become vigilant, if you acknowledge you were wrong about them?

  • You'll feel uncomfortable, coming to the realization that you're not as close friends

  • as you thought you were.

  • Maybe you'll feel lonely and abandoned.

  • Maybe you'll wonder if you'll ever find another friend again.

  • But once that discomfort settles, you'll have a truer vision of reality.

  • You'll see that they were not your close friend and that's okay.

  • You start to believe that it's better to be alone than be surrounded by bad friends.

  • You have a better understanding of what does and doesn't make a good friend, and you can

  • use your new insight to find better friends, friends that come through for you in the same

  • way that you come through for them.

  • But what will happen if you remain ignorant?

  • If you ignore your error and stay in a bad friendship, initially, you'll feel comfortable.

  • You won't have to be alone, find new friends, or confront yourself.

  • But in the long run, you'll continue hanging out with people who are not good friends to

  • you.

  • They'll let you down again and again, and at some point, you will have to confront the

  • idea that they are not good friends.

  • And the longer you go without confronting your error, the harder it might get to confront,

  • and the more time you will simply waste with them.

  • Or perhaps, you decide to keep ignoring your errors and never get out of that friendship.

  • In which case, you will get to the end of your life with regret and sadness, feeling

  • empty and confused inside.

  • You will still feel lonely, let down, and like you're missing something, but you will

  • not know why you feel the way you do, and it's because you lied to yourself for so long

  • that you don't even know why you feel the way you do anymore.

  • But by keeping your mind vigilant and attentive to your own errors, you can begin to overcome

  • your errors.

  • And by freeing yourself of errors, you can become enlightened, which is to have sight

  • without error, without obstruction.

  • You will see the world more clearly.

  • But even then, your journey as a philosopher would just be starting.

  • Can you get others to see the light too?

  • It's harder than you might think.

  • Have you ever had to have a conversation with someone where you had to tell them something

  • that they really believe to be true is false?

  • Have you ever had to tell someone something that they don't want to hear, but you know

  • they have to hear if they want to move forward in life?

  • Something where it feels like their whole world will shatter if they hear it?

  • Maybe they believe they're someone that they're not.

  • They think they're hardworking when they're actually lazy, or they think they're nice

  • when they're actually really mean, or they think they're above average when they're

  • just mediocre.

  • But if you tell them this, then it will destroy their entire self-image.

  • The light that beams from you will be too threatening or destabilizing for them to look

  • at.

  • Maybe it is too bright for them in its full expression.

  • Just like you couldn't just stare at the sun when you first stepped out.

  • You had to learn to adjust.

  • You can't simply get prisoners to go from looking at the shadows to looking directly

  • at the sun.

  • Plato assures us that all hope isn't lost.

  • By adjusting your eyes to the shadows, you can learn to see the world as they see it

  • again, and from there, you can communicate to them more effectively.

  • You can inspire them to look towards the light, slowly, at their own pace, one step at a timeat

  • least the ones willing to look.

  • For example, maybe your friend thinks they're above-average at writing when they're really

  • not.

  • But instead of coming out and saying that, you start asking questions.

  • Questions that may help them naturally come to that realization.

  • You might say, “how would you rank your own writing?”

  • Who do you think writes better than you?”

  • Why do they write better than you?”

  • If they say no one writes better than them, you might ask, “why does no one write better

  • than you?

  • And if no one writes better than you, why do they achieve certain results that you don't?

  • Do you want the results that other successful writers have?

  • Then why not try some of the stuff they're doing?”

  • So on and so forth.

  • Through this type of questioning, you can inspire them to look at the light on their