Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Allegory of the Cave...

A few nights ago, I was watching the shadows of the city lights outside, dancing across our bedroom wall, and I turned to my husband and asked, "What do you think the lesson of Plato's Allegory of the Cave was meant to be?" He said "Well, probably... no matter how hard you try, you just can't make some people see things your way." (And yes, we have conversations like this all the time...)

If you are unfamiliar with the story, it describes a dark cave, dimly lit with a roaring fire. Prisoners are chained in a restrictive position, so that they can only see shadows on a wall, being cast by the figures behind them. Because of their limited view, it appears that the shadows are real, and that the voices they hear are coming from the shadows. A prisoner who was able to escape, leaves the cave, and experiences sunlight and the outside world, then returns to the cave to "enlighten" the others... But they dismiss him, thinking he is crazy, and that his eyesight has been damaged by the sunlight. This is just a quick condensed version of the story, but it is truly food for thought.

People sometimes ask me why I would want to make things that are so easily bought. "Why would anyone want to make slippers?" they ask. Until this moment, I thought that maybe one of us (but who knows which one...?) was the cave-dweller, who just couldn't imagine the other person's way of thinking.

Turns out, after thinking about it, and rereading Plato, that isn't it at all!

The problem, it seems, is in our wide definition of "slipper".

Further reading in Plato's Republic analyzes art, truth and imitation. Assuming there is only one true Creator of all things, everything else is imitation, right?

So an approximation of a generic foot, generates a standardized pattern, which gets produced, yielding a product that you can then buy, called a "slipper". While this is a perfectly valid way to obtain a slipper, an alternative way to develop a "slipper", is to obtain the measurements of the intended wearer, find something that is beautiful to the person who will wear it, and create it according to its intended purpose and unique design. This can also be called a "slipper", but it really just isn't the same thing.

This idea goes back to my post about spider webs, and the beauty of unique, specific, ergonomic design. I no longer seek to convert people to my way of thinking; it is enough for them just to know that making things is something I do, because I love it, and it is meaningful to me.

Sure, you can buy a shirt or make one, but the one you make isn't just a shirt, is it? I mean really, what you want is never an exact duplicate of what you can actually buy, is it?

So, if I haven't lost you, and you haven't yet decided that I am completely off my rocker, here is some proof of that idea.

So, what is this? You might have seen this fabric, which was wildly popular about 7 years ago, and was ushering in a kinda new color scheme at the time... Plus that it conveys such a happy mood, and a great attitude. So for me, at a time when I was feeling optimistic and VERY pregnant, I bought this fabric, and created a baby bag...

I wanted to carry this mood around with me all day, and that was reason enough to create this bag, using this fabric, and I used a layer of clear vinyl on top, and a canvas totebag beneath to sandwich the layers without needing to create a pattern. Heavy snaps made it very easy to open and close, and the vinyl coating kept me from worrying about getting it wet in the rain. I carried it until I no longer needed it, and it really seemed to brighten the day for me, and for others.

So my point is... if it means something to me, it needs to be created just as much as I need to create it. I really can't explain why, so I'll just continue to live it.

1 comment:

  1. And here I thought I was the only one who brought up the Allegory of the Cave in conversation! The lesson I take from it is one is only bound by the limitations of their own thinking. Whenever I set out to do something new or challenging I remind myself that only thing that can hold me back