Plato hadn’t thought of everything.
The philosopher skipped toward the cave in spirits chipper and spirits over-brimming, as he had encountered a wide world fresh with tendrils and saplings, lush with the industry of socioeconomic paradigms. Owing to his status as philosopher, he recognized the somber duty to educate his countrywomen and men, who he’d left behind, in chains. They faced a blank wall, upon which played but shadows of the greater creation. “Ho!” he howled, still at a distance, but there came no reply. ‘Perhaps they slumber’, he thought. He paused at the mouth of the cave, his hand on the crag, so he might steady his anticipatory breathing. “Ho!” he echoed, when there came a single bestial grunt. “Oh, Horatius,” he laughed, referring to a friend. “Having visions of single-handed corporeal pleasure, are you?” The philosopher entered the cave only to confront a low, estimable beast, its powerful jaws snapping off a lethargic reptilian grunt, before it took a run at the man, waddling with growing menace until the philosopher sprinted into the brilliant light of midday. Even as the confrontation lasted mere seconds, the philosopher entertained horrific images of partially devoured screams. He had recognized the bodily outlines of his unenlightened countrypersons in the reptile’s belly, and out of this terror, didn’t brake his sprint until he stood thirty yards from the cave. The beast had not pursued him beyond the darkness of its lair. All about the philosopher there played the attentive wisdom of the elements, the great quietude of a cool breeze. ‘I had conceived of The Allegory of the Cave’, he thought, ‘but instead, I must now contend with The Alligator of the Cave.’ A very poor morale descended upon the philosopher. He could not enlighten his kinfolk, as they had suffered a mass devouring. He could not enlighten the reptile. Returning to the cave—even if the alligator ever abandoned the premises—made little sense. Eventually, the alligator would return to eat him, too, and would swallow up (if not digest) the philosopher’s enlightenment. The philosopher sought refuge in the arguments of his teachers, but their proofs did not guide him in his inquiries about this newfangled predicament—the sudden appearance of a powerful, armored beast. ‘One can never truly return home’, he concluded, ‘unless, of course, one doesn’t have to square off with an alligator upon arrival.’ He tried again: ‘People chained to their short-sighted belief systems may wind up devoured by their ignorance. The alligator, therefore, represents ignorance come to exact a penalty.’ This sounded better to the man, but of course, he remembered, ‘The fault rests with me for not freeing a single person before I left: a capable wrestler, perhaps, a shot-putter, special policeman, muckraker, or manipulator of media.’ A single plaintive grunt sounded in the middle distance of the cave. The alligator, however, did not emerge into daylight to chase the philosopher, but instead, through its grunt, tipped forward the philosopher’s decision to leave. A powerful, fearsome energy then inhabited the cave. What the alligator knew of the cave’s unenlightened dwellers—it had devoured; it had begun to digest their short-sightedness. ‘While the philosopher ponders, the dumb animal acts upon its hierarchy of needs.’ Or so thought the philosopher, as he tripped outward and away, he himself capable of estimating the predatory forays of the dumb animal, in his quest to convince nation-states of his suffering and sorrows.