We hiked to Buggy Top Cave yesterday, just south of Sewanee off the Sherwood Road. This is a phenomenal cave to visit, with an eighty foot mouth and a creek running through it. Buggy Top was closed for a while, due to white nose syndrome, but is apparently now open again. Even those in good physical shape–one of whom I am not–despair of the hike out, but it’s all worth it. “The world just seems so much brighter once you get out,” one of my sons said to me. “The greens just kinda glow.”
Many know the famous Allegory of the Cave, from Plato’s Republic Book 7 (Jowett translation): Behold! human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.
Of course, Socrates says, occasionally one of them will think to turn around, and seeing that all he has known is but a series of shadows, will try to make his way out– perhaps with some instructor’s help. The experience is an unpleasant one for him, at first: And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he ‘s forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.