Allegory of the Blindfoldby Michael Sharp
Allegory of the Blindfold
Dedicated to priests and prophets of the world.
May the people of this earth find no more use for you.
Imagine for a moment a society like none that you have ever seen before. Imagine a civilization of love, peace, and compassion where nobody goes hungry, nobody wants for anything, and everyone is equally loved and valued. Imagine a perfect society with few worries, no wants, no suffering, and a wise and shining population dancing their days in peace, prosperity, and happiness. Imagine a garden paradise, an Eden, Shambhala, perfect in every way, and populated by smiling, shining children of Light and Love. Imagine that, and then imagine that one day for some inexplicable reason, everybody starts to wear a blindfold. One moment, the people are dancing in the Light and Joy of Creation, and the next they are plunged into darkness.
As you might guess, being suddenly blindfolded in this fashion made life a lot more difficult for our shiny happy people. With the blindfold on, the people could not see a thing, and that made everything a lot harder to do. With a blindfold covering their eyes, they struggled around in darkness. They crashed and bumped into each other. They dropped stuff and broke things. As you can imagine, it was not too long before the bumping and the crashing caused them frustration, pain, suffering, and anger. Their anger and frustration grew and soon they were hurting each other, yelling at their kids, and becoming grumpy, bitter, selfish, angry little ogres who no longer had the time or the energy to care about anything or anybody other than themselves. It was bad and it got worse every day.
You would think that as things continued to deteriorate, these people would take off their blindfolds, but for some reason they did not. No matter how bad it got, the people left their blindfolds on. What is worse, soon they simply forgot they were wearing them at all. That was a sad day because it was at that point that the people forgot their lives could be anything other than the frustrated, angry, bump and grind they had all come to know. As each new generation was born into darkness, these once shiny children of light and love transformed into the offspring of a putrid and ugly darkness. For these Dwellers in the Dark (a.k.a. Dwellers), the pain and the suffering grew.
Still, no matter how bad the pain and suffering became, and no matter how many generations passed, there were always stories. Elders would tell tales of a shiny, happy place that had once existed, where the people danced and played. In this happy place, there was no poverty, no war, and no disease. In this happy place, everybody smiled all the time. That is what the elders said, but most people thought these were just stories. Everybody knew, and everyone accepted, that life was a bitter pill. Still, some did wonder if maybe the stories were true. As they wondered, they began to ask question. “Why is everything so dark and confusing?” and “Why are we always bumping into things?”
“Why is our whole world this way?”
“Did something happen to us?”
“Has it always been this way?”
These were big questions after all, and many different people thought about the questions. Some of these people, let us call them the existential depressives (EDs), eventually decided that there was no explanation for the darkness and confusion. They assumed the tales were simply stories and they accepted the status quo because, “that’s the way it has always been”. In their typically depressive manner this small group of Dwellers droned on about how the universe was empty and dark, how it had always been this way, how it would always be this way, and how it all ended inevitably in death. Because the universe was empty, they said, the best we could do was to accept the reality of the darkness and try to have fun while we are here.
Thankfully, not all the Dwellers believed the existential depressives. Some Dwellers were not satisfied with the existential funk. In fact, most Dwellers were not happy with the depressives at all and so most kept on searching for something more. Eventually, some of them, let us call them the priests, came up with different answers.
Unfortunately, the priests had blindfolds on just like the existential depressives so the answers they came up with were not particularly accurate, insightful, or useful. In fact, much of what the priests came up with was downright ridiculous. For example, some priests said that the people were stumbling in darkness and confusion because they were evil, dirty, and deserved it! Other priests said that the world was the way it was because the people had done something wrong, and now some powerful force was punishing them for their sins. Still others said that people were fools and that this world was a school meant to teach, through pain and suffering, something that we could learn. Some of these priests even said that if we did not learn our lessons and obey we would be cast into a pit and burned alive for all eternity.
Yes, the priests said many ridiculous things, but you can understand why. These priests did not remember a time before the blindfold and so they had experienced nothing but confusion, violence, and darkness, just like everyone else. Who could blame them for saying the world sucked, or for pointing their fingers in blame? After all, life was pain and everything was harder because of the darkness. They simply concluded that it must be our fault because we were so sinful, guilty and stupid.
It may not have been much of an explanation, but it was something, and out of a desperate need for purpose and meaning, the Dwellers believed. What other choice did they have? They could believe either that it was all random and meaningless like the existential depressives, or they could listen to the meaning that the priests provided. Sure, the priests insulted them and put them down, calling them evil, dirty, sinners; but frankly, most people preferred the priests because the priests offered more than an empty universe.
That people preferred the priest’s answers to the depressives was great, at least for the priests. Not only did having the “answers”, even if the “answers” were mean, abusive, wrong, and made them feel special, but as they quickly learned, the Dwellers would pay cash for their answers. The priests offered meaning, the priest offered answers, and the people paid cash for both, which kind of made things worse. The cash gave the priests wealth, the wealth brought the priests power, and the wealth and the power made life good, for the priests!
They did not feel bad about it.
What was the harm in that?
The priests may not know the truth, but at least they were offering meaning, and that was worth money to many. The people certainly thought so, at least for a while. Eventually however a few of the Dwellers, let us call them the prophets, grew unsatisfied with what the priests were saying. They looked at the priests in their castles, they saw the troubles in the world, they sensed a vague hypocrisy, and they said, “This can’t be right!” “If you deserve that”, said the prophets, “and we deserve this because we’re bad, then what’s it all for?”
Of course, since they were still wearing a blindfold, and since they were exploiting the darkness for their own ends, they did not have a good answer to that question. All the priests could do was justify and excuse, which they did with much gusto. In response to the critical questions of the prophets, the priests said, “We are chosen”, “We are special”, “We are beautiful”, and “We are wise”.
Fortunately however, the prophets did not buy it. They sensed the answers were self-serving and they could see the priests were in darkness, just like everyone else. So, they continued to search. Their search was hard and it was dark and, just like everybody else, they struggled in blindness and confusion. Still, they kept searching. Eventually, they stumbled into the forest where they drank of the Clear Stream and ate of the Burning Bush. When they had drank from the stream and eaten from the bush, their blindfolds fell away and the prophets could suddenly see!
Which, to be honest, was not as great as you might at first think. One minute the prophets were walking in total darkness and the next they saw with full light. One minute they could see nothing at all, and the next the world was revealed. The revelation was not an easy thing to deal with. To eyes accustomed to darkness, the Light was blinding. The blindfold fell off and it was information overload. There was no reference point and worse, nobody to talk with. Out there in the forest wilderness with the blindfold suddenly off, the prophets were scared, alone, blinded, confused, and in danger of going mad. The Light was so bright, the information so dense, and the previous Darkness so total, that their minds were pushed to the precipice. Their bodies instinctively reacted to save them. In order to preserve their sanity, their hands automatically reached out and snatched the blindfold back on, thereby returning themselves to the “safe” and familiar Darkness that they knew.
At least, that was what you hoped would happen. Unfortunately, it was not always that clean. With their minds and emotions weakened by their bumping around in the Dark, some prophets faltered and fell. The Light was too bright, it hurt their eyes, and in confusion and fear, they panicked. Some who panicked were able to get the blindfold back on, calm down, and find their way back from the forest, but others could not, and they went insane. Going insane in the forest was very bad because with everybody else still wearing a blindfold, nobody could provide good help. Existential depressives said, “That’s life”. Priests recommended exorcism. Psychiatrists provided pills. Friends and family said, “it’s OK” and “it’s all right,” even when clearly it was not. Afraid, confused, and completely alone, some prophets were lost in the wilderness.
Of the rest of the prophets who did not go mad, even though they successfully snatched the Blindfold back on, they were affected as well. They had gotten a glimpse and it was shocking, revelatory, and more. It was so different from what they expected and at such variance to what the priests and the depressives had taught that they simply could not process and integrate. Even though they had snatched the blindfold back on, they were scared and confused. It was too much for their damaged egos and out of fear and self-preservation, the prophets left the forest, vowing never to return.
Of course, refusal to go back into the wilderness for another glimpse did not stop the prophets from talking about what they had seen or exploiting their “greater knowledge” for venal power and selfish purposes. Why would it? The prophets had seen how the people had treated the priests and they wanted some of that. So, the prophets said to the Dwellers, “Follow us because we’ve seen the light”. The prophets spoke about “presence”. They proclaimed the “power of now”. They said, “Live in the moment”. They said, “It is all about attraction!” And the people in the dark, the dwellers who had not visited the forest, those who had not drank from the stream or eaten from the bush, were easily dazzled by the partial glimpses and limited “wisdom” of the prophets, and they handed over their cash.
Who could blame them?
The existential depressives saw only an empty universe. The priests called them weak, evil, and stupid; but the prophets had sure seen the light, if only for a moment. The Dwellers could see that the prophets provided more, and so they followed. This was great for the prophets who bought cars, mansions in California, fancy dinners, and many other expensive things with the cash; however, it was bad for the Dwellers because despite lofty claims by the prophets to provide the emancipatory truths, they remained mired in darkness, with the blindfold firmly on.
Still, eventually, the Dwellers grew unsatisfied with the thin wisdom of the prophets, and they began to question. Having seen them go into the forest, they asked the prophets about the water, the bush, and what they had seen; but the prophets refused to tell!
Why would they?
The prophets knew that if the people went out into the forest, drank from the stream, and ate from the bush, the blindfold would fall off and they would learn the truth for themselves. When the blindfold fell off, the Dwellers would see that the prophets were scared, confused, and even a little bit greedy. When the Dwellers saw that, they would stop handing out cash, and they might even get a little angry. In order to protect their profits and their privilege, in order so that the Dwellers would not go out into the forest and find out for themselves, and in order to avoid the wrath of the people, the prophets dissembled. They avoided direct answers and averted their eyes. They lied about what they had done. They said, “Don’t walk in the forest, don’t drink from the water, and don’t eat from the bush, because it’s dangerous”.
“It is bad for your health and bad for your children”, they said.
“We can do it because we’re special.”
“You are weak and sinful,” they said.
“We are called to God’s service. We are the silver seed of Earth’s nature. We are your natural born shepherds.”
“Don’t ask questions,” they said.
“Just have faith and believe whatever we say.”
Of course, the Dwellers were not happy with this. They could see the prophets were not totally on the level, but what could they do? Their choices were limited. They only had the depressives, the priests, and the prophets to choose from. Of the three, the prophets were closest of all because at least they had a glimpse. Besides, when the Dwellers grumbled, the prophets would say, “Smile and be happy, for the grumpy person is far from the Truth, and you should be grateful for what you get”, and that shut them down right away.
And so, on and on it went. The existential depressives got depressed, the priests told their lies, the prophets spun their webs, and the people followed closely behind. “And what’s wrong with that”, asked the priests and the prophets? “No real harm comes of it,” they say.
“In fact,” they say, “there’s positive benefit”.
“Our words may be empty and our meaning impotent, but it shepherds the lambs all the same.”
And the people accept that, for a while at least. Eventually however a few, let us call them the visionaries, looked up at the priests and the prophets in their castles, scratch their heads and asked, “Why?”
“We follow their directions. We listen to their advice. We meditate in a lotus. We force our smiles. We accept and are grateful, but the darkness lingers on.”
“The priests and the prophets sit in their castles”, they said, but we struggle, suffer, and die”.
“Something”, said the visionaries, “is off”.
Of course, they were correct. There was something wrong with what the prophets and the priests were providing. Their explanations were partial and confused, and their teachings dripped with greed, ego, and fear. When the visionaries saw this, they started their own search. They searched and searched and eventually they stumbled into the forest just as the prophets had before them. There, they ate of the bush and drank from the stream, and the blindfolds fell fast from their eyes. Just like that, and just like the prophets before them, they were scared, confused, and alone. Dazed and confused, they snatched the blindfolds back on. However, having seen the prophets had survived, they did not run away. Instead, they took deep breaths to calm down. They controlled their fear. They worked through their confusion. They processed their visions.
The visionaries had it under control. They lingered in the forest and when they had calmed themselves down, controlled their egos, processed their visions, and integrated the information, they drank and they ate once again! Once again, the blindfold fell off, only the second time they were not so confused or so scared. The blindfold stayed off a while longer, and they saw even more! They breathed and they processed, they calmed and they integrated, and when they were ready, they did it again. For a third time, the blindfold fell off, and once again, there was less fear and more understanding. They did this repeatedly, each time with a little less fear and a little more understanding until eventually, after much trial, tribulation, and disciplined daily practice, the fear and confusion fell away, the blindfold stayed off, and full site was restored.
What a great day that was because with the blindfold off, the visionaries did not have to suffer the depressives, bow before the priests, or attend to the prophets. Now, they could see reality. Now, they knew the truth.
The visionaries knew!
The truth was obvious and the solution plain to see. People were wearing blindfolds and all the people had to do to make everything better was find a way to control their fear and confusion long enough so that they could flip their blindfolds permanently off. If they could do that, if they could breathe, calm, and process, the blindfolds could come off and the laughter and the dancing would return. It was that simple.
Excited by what they discovered, the visionaries began to teach others.
They said, “Don’t be afraid”.
They said, “Just breathe and relax”.
They said, “Trust us and you will see.
They said, “It can be a challenge, but we can help, and you can do it for sure!”
You have to admit, it was an exciting message. Unfortunately, it did not go viral right away because people did not buy it at first. There was skepticism and doubt, and who could blame them? After all, the Dwellers had been listening to the priests and the prophets dissemble for so long that they thought nobody could ever offer full insight; but, the visionaries knew the truth and they persisted. They kept repeating the same messages and eventually a few of the Dwellers followed their advice. They ate from the bush and drank from the stream. They controlled their fear. They processed the information. The blindfolds stayed off. Full vision returned.
And that gave the people real hope.
And the hope started a buzz…
And the buzz went viral
And the planet finally transformed. And that was great for everybody, even the priests and the prophets because they eventually took their blindfold off as well. And when they did finally get their blindfold off they had to admit, they were a lot happier dancing in the light than stumbling in the dark.