How Harry Potter and Plato give you better perspective on life
Welcome to Mental Space Monday! Where we journey inside the rabbit hole of collective consciousness and submit to the whims of curiosity.
I had a dream in which I was watching myself as a 1-year-old playing by the edge of a lake. I leisurely chatted with my parents as we lounged in beach chairs and I watched my small self poke sticks in the mud drawing shapes and digging pits to bury shells. As toddler Mandy turned and shifted her weight, it became clear that she was going to tip over backward into the water that was easily a 6 foot drop just off the edge of the bank. I jumped up from my chair before anyone knew what was happening - before my little self even began to fall. By the time I got to me, I had toppled over backward into the water and was sinking. I dove in and grabbed me by the ankle and tried frantically to raise my little body, breaking the surface with both or our heads in less than 20 seconds. I woke up panicked and panting but oddly elated. I had saved myself. It made me think of Plato.
Let me start a different way.
Sometimes we become entrenched. In our habits, in our lives in the limiting mindsets we create for ourselves that hold us back. We look out at life through the spectacles of "self" and are trapped into believing that the view we have in front of us is the only one available.
I would like to offer a well supported alternative to us all. This is not a new idea (is it ever?). But there is merit in revisiting and combining and embracing old knowledge. Sometimes our collective consciousness is just as forgetful as I am and it can use a refresher.
Way back in the 4th century Plato understood that we often go through our daily lives without being able to get past what we see right in front of us. His cave allegory constructs a metaphor about humanity. Basically, most of us are chained to the ground within a cave. All we can see is a wall in front of us and we spend all of our time watching shadows on the wall pretending that they are real. We construct our lives around stories that we create about these 2D forms from our limited point of view. Not only do we fool ourselves into believing that what we see is reality but we also live consumed by one perspective on the situations we are 'experiencing'.
So how do we unchain ourselves? How do we see beyond the problems right in front of us that seem insurmountable and overwhelming? How do we break free of the cave, walk into the light and gain a wider, more realistic and more multi-dimensional perspective on life?
Consider this quote from The Great Gatsby:
“I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”-The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
What if our problems are an allegory, a metaphor, an illusion or at least are created by the fact that we are only looking at a small part of the entire situation? Ok, I am not saying that certain problems in life can be wished away or that we can stick our heads in the sand and make believe they aren't real. But what if some caves are self-constructs or at the very least the chains that hold us down are all in our heads? I propose that we take a cue from Fitzgerald. Let's step out of ourselves, unchain ourselves from our 2D perspective and visualize for a moment that we are watching the situation from the outside.
What would happen if we could remove ourselves from our own circumstances and watch our struggle from a new perspective - and then what if we could ride up on our white horse and save the day ... for ourselves as a result of our new-found and more enlightened perspective?
This is not without precedent. Have you read Harry Potter? Seriously, just humor me. In the 3rd Harry Potter book (or movie if you are so inclined), Harry Potter is dying and being attacked by evil forces - long story, details aren't important. As his consciousness is fading, Harry looks out across the lake he is lying beside and sees a man he believes to be his father casting a spell that saves his life. Later in the book, Harry finds himself in that exact position across the lake, watching himself, dying before his eyes. He panics. Time is growing short; where is his father? The spell that needs to be cast to save his "self" on the other side of the lake is too difficult for him. He needs his father to come and ... he suddenly realizes that his father had never been there. The figure he saw as he lost consciousness was himself. There was no time to think about the limitations of his talent or education, he had to save himself. And the beauty of this situation? He knew he could do it. Why? Because he had already done it! I'll wait while you ponder that one. Seriously. If you knew, actually knew that you had already done something; had seen yourself achieving it, don't you think that you would run full spreed ahead through any barriers that were in your way? You would waste no time, leave no stone unturned, you would grow no moss and take no prisoners ... you would just do it. Check out the video below:
What if problems can be solved simply by pretending that you have already accomplished the result; in suspending reality and believing that you already know what the outcome looks like. You can draft it, draw it, spell it out and shape it as you please. If you could get to the bigger perspective of Fitzgerald's 'without' long enough to see the twists and turns in the road you are walking, to see the exit for the maze you are navigating maybe that space between 'within' and 'without' would no longer seem so daunting and mysterious and insurmountable. Maybe in seeing the end goal (self-defined or not) you would be able to see more clearly the best way to get there.
In case you feel uneasy basing your solution on a line from a fiction novel, Fitzgerald was not the first to bring up this within/without duality. The 7 Principles of Hermetic Wisdom (think 2nd century BC) (reference to my blog post here) sought to give a comprehensive understanding of the universe and self. One of these is the principle of Correspondence which says, "As within, so without". I am suggesting that we all take a step back from the within and try the formula in reverse: as without, so within. Sometimes the perspective of 'without' is more enlightening than the forest 'within'. You can save yourself from drowning if you believe that it has already been done; that it is within you to accomplish what is necessary. Get your mind above the trees and take a look at the terrain, you may find that the gap between this higher perspective and the view from 'within' takes care of itself once you free yourself from the chains that limit your perspective. And - even better: trust that no ideas are new ideas. This has all been done before and if you don't know the answer, those around you do! If you are searching, someone else is as well, that is the beauty of our Zeitgeist, we can all work in tandem to better who we are within and without, individually and together.
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Have a wonderful week, lovelies. Believe in your unique entelechy and actualize your wonderful.