The Parable of the Blindfold
Dedicated to all the prophets of the world. May the people of this earth find no more use for you.
Imagine for a moment a society, a civilization, 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 loved and equally valued.
Imagine a perfect society with few worries, no wants, minimal suffering, and a wise and shining population living out their days in peace, prosperity, and happiness.
Imagine a garden paradise, an Eden, perfect in every way, populated by smiling, shiny, and radiant children of light and love and then imagine that one day, for some inexplicable reason, everybody in this civilization starts to wear a blindfold.
One moment they are enjoying the chromatic colors of nature, and the next they are stone blind.
'Now, as you might guess, being blindfolded like this made life a lot more difficult for our shiny people. With the blindfolds on, the people couldn't see a darn thing and that made everything a lot harder. They started to bump into each other, they crashed into walls, they dropped stuff and broke things, and pretty soon they were hurting each other, yelling at their kids, and becoming, because of all the extra difficulty, bitter, grumpy, angry, frustrated little ogres who no longer had the time or the energy to care about anything, or anybody, other than themselves.
Now you would think that as things deteriorated (and they deteriorated quite far) they'd take off their blindfolds, but for some reason they didn't. No matter how bad it got, the people left their blindfolds on and pretty soon they forgot they were wearing a blindfold at all. And when that happened it was a sad, sad day because at that point they forgot that life could be anything other than the pain, suffering, and confusion they had become used to. And when that happened, and as the generations flowed into each other, these once shiny children of light became the offspring of ugly darkness.
Still, and no matter how many generations passed, there were always stories.
Some of the older people, the elders, would tell tales of a shiny, happy place that had once existed where the people shared visions of color and glory, where nobody got mad, nobody went hungry, there was no poverty, war, or disease, and everybody smiled all the time. But most people thought these were just stories you tell the children. Everybody knew, and everyone accepted, that life was a dark, bitter, grind and the best you could do was protect yourself from being knocked over.
Still, even though most accepted, many did wonder.
"Why was everything so dark and confusing?" they would ask, and "why are we always bumping into things?"
"Did something happen to us?"
"Has it always been like this?"
"Why is the world this way?"
These were big questions to be sure and the blindfolded people had different answers. Some people, let's call them the existential depressives, had no explanation. They simply accepted things the way they were because "that's the way it was." In their typically depressive sort of way, these folks droned on about how the universe was empty and dark and how it would always be this way and so we should just accept it and have whatever fun we could manage before we were extinguished by the horrid inevitability of death.
Horrible and depressing, I know, and thankfully not too many people were satisfied with this perspective. In fact, most people weren't happy with the depressive explanation at all and so most people kept right on looking for answers and some of these people, let's call them the priests, came up with different answers.
Of course, the priests had blindfolds on just like everyone else so the answers they came up with weren't particularly accurate or insightful.
In fact, a lot of what they came up with was downright ridiculous.
For example, some of the priests, perhaps after being picked on once too often in school by the other blindfolded children, said that people were stumbling in darkness and confusion because they deserved it. They said this was the way it was because people were foul, rotten, unworthy, barely worthy of redemption, and fit only for an existence of pain and suffering.
Other priests, perhaps because they had been punished once too often by their blind parents and teachers, said that it was the way it was because the people had done something wrong and now they were being punished for it. These priests expressed their youthful imprinting by suggesting that people had committed some crime and had been thus banished from paradise and expelled into the darkness.
Still other priests were even more bitter and angry and they said that the people were simply too stupid to make good decisions, and that darkness, confusion, and pain was a way to school them. According to these ones, pain and suffering were not the abuses that would lead to damage and scarring, but "lessons" that would eventually lead back to light and paradise.
And if that wasn't stupid enough, some priests even talked about some time in the future where, if we hadn't learned our lessons, we'd all be annihilated as cosmic trash in some divine (or evolutionary), reckoning.
Still other priests were so scarred and fearful and paranoid that they suggested the people had all been tricked by an evil and powerful being who would pretty soon spring a trap and torture people for all eternity.
Yes, the priests said a lot of different things but to be honest they all basically echoed the same empty untruth. Since they were all blindfolded like everybody else, and since they didn't know the real truth (i.e. that people were wearing a blindfold), all they could to explain the darkness was to blame the people.
"Yes life was pain and everything was harder because of the darkness," they would say, "but that's your fault. "
"If you would just be kinder, or more loving, or more evolved, or more service oriented, and less stupid and imperfect, it wouldn't have to be this way," they would say.
And while I know these answers sound silly and easy to see through to you and me, the people with the blindfolds on didn't see it that way.
They accepted these answers!
What other choice did they have?
They could either believe it was all random and meaningless, like the existential depressives said, or they could listen to the priests - and frankly most people chose the priests because at least the priests were offering meaning.p>And this was great...
...at least for the priests, because not only did having "the answers," even if they were the wrong answers, make them feel special, powerful, and privileged but, as they quickly learned, the people were willing to give them money and buy them castles in exchange for the meaning and the answers they provided.
And what was the harm in that?
The priests may not know the real Truth, and they may not offer real solutions, but at least they were offering meaning... and that was ok, for a while, but eventually a few of the people, let's call them the prophets, grew unsatisfied. They looked at the priests in their beautiful castles, and they looked at their own lives of quiet desperation, and they couldn't accept.
"This can't be right," they said.
"All we do is struggle, suffer, and bump into each other."
"How can this be our fault?"
"We're not stupid?"
"We're not unworthy."
"We don't deserve this."
And they were right of course.
It wasn't their fault, they weren't stupid, nobody was punishing them, and they didn't deserve it.
But then, they would ask, "why all the suffering and confusion?"
These would-be prophets wanted answers and so rather than buying what the depressives were saying, and rather than slurping up what the priests had offered, they kept searching. And it was a hard search, to be sure, and so most of them left their families and abandoned their jobs. They went into the desert, drank of the clear stream water, and ate of the available fungi, and one day, totally by accident and completely unexpectedly, the blindfold fell right off and the would-be prophets got a full on, unobstructed, uncensored view of reality.
Which, to be honest, wasn't as great as you might at first think.
In fact, it was terrifying.
One minute the prophets were walking around in total darkness just like everyone else and the next they were blinded by the light.
One minute you couldn't see a darn thing, and the next everything is revealed.
It was information overload like you've never seen before and a dramatic shifting by any standard.
There was simply no reference point and what's worse, nobody to talk to.
Out there in the desert, all by yourself, with the blindfold suddenly off, you were alone with your vision - and no matter who you were, or how strong and smart you thought you might be, it was terrifying all the same.
And without exception..
Every single one of those "prophets in the desert" snatched the blindfold back on as quick as they could.
There really wasn't anything else they could do.
They had been in darkness for so long that not only could their eyes not adjust fast enough, but they couldn't understand all the new information. It was a jumble and a blur and it confused them and they panicked.
In an instant they were shown a reality unlike anything they had known from birth, and totally different than the priests had talked about.
Basically, their eyes were made to see, but nothing they saw made any sense.
Their mind was in danger of overload and their body made the decision automatically.
Or at least, that was what you hoped would happen.
It wasn't always that clean though.
Sometimes, not too often mind you, but sometimes somebody would panic or lose control. They would freak out and scramble for the blindfold in fear but before they could get it back on their mind, overwhelmed by what they had seen, would snap. Either they'd be so overwhelmed with fear that they'd become paranoid, or their capacity to reason and understand would be undermined, and they'd become crazy from their vision.
I know it sounds bad, and it was.
Had somebody been there to explain what had happened to them and help deal with the fear and confusion, the trauma could be overcome. But the truth was, usually the only people around were people who also had blindfolds on and they couldn't help at all. Priests would recommend exorcism, psychiatrists would provide pills, and friends and family would screw up their noses and worry and fret and all this made helping these poor individuals much, much harder than it needed to be.
Thankfully however, that sort of thing didn't happen too often and most of the prophets got the blindfold back on quick as a wink.
Of course, that didn't mean they weren't profoundly affected by their experience.
They had seen a reality unlike anything they could have dreamed of and to say it was shocking and disorienting would be an understatement of biblical proportions.
They had got a glimpse, that's true, but they understand hardly anything of what they had seen.
It was so different than what they had expected, and what they had been taught, that they simply couldn't integrate their experience.
Even though they got the blindfold back on they were scared, and confused.
It was just too much for their damaged egos and so most of them decided they could never go back.
They looked at the people who had snapped and they said "look how dangerous it is."
They looked at their own confusion and they said (replacing "I" with "people") "people just aren't ready for the truth!"
Of course, that didn't stop these prophets from talking.
They saw how the priests were treated and they wanted some of that so, despite the fact that they had got only a glimpse and really didn't understand things much better than the priests, they talked as if they did.
They talked about "the light" and about "presence" and "the veil" and about "being in the now" and darkness and illusion and the greater reality that lay "just beyond" and people ate it up ($$). After all, there were a lot of people who were not satisfied with the explanations of the priests, and the prophets provided something different. It didn't seem to matter that the best the prophets could do was give up partial truths and mystical sound bites, people loved it because it gave them hope that there was something more than the darkness they had born into.
And of course, this was great for the prophets who bought BMWs and California mansions with the money they received. However, it wasn't so great for the people who, when they started to ask the difficult questions like "how do I get my veil off" or "how do we end the darkness and suffering," couldn't seem to get a straight answer, no matter how much money they doled out.
And if the people complained about that...
If they said to the prophets, "tell me the answers you say you have..."
Well, that wasn't a problem.
The prophets had lots of things they could do to avoid providing direct answers to questions they had no clue how to answer. For example, the prophets could start "mystery schools" where they could hide their ignorance behind complicated mazes of twisted verbiage that went nowhere, but that could have kept the people (and their pocketbooks) occupied for decades.
Or, the prophets could do what the priests did and blame the people.
"You're not 'good enough'" they would say, or "you have too much karma," or "you're not pure enough" or "you're not evolved enough" or "it takes many lifetimes" and on and on and on they would drone.
And yes, the people would grumble.
People weren't stupid after all and some of them figured out that the prophets were blowing it out their arses, and the people got angry.
But when that happened the prophets always said the same.
"Smile, and be happy, for the grumpy person is far from Truth and God."
And that typically shut the people up.
And so that's how it went and of course even though a lot of people knew the prophets weren't providing the real solutions or the real answers, people accepted because at least the prophets were offering meaning, and a glimpse.
And besides, no real harm was being done (according to the profits).
But sometimes, you know, things could get out of hand.
Sometimes the prophets did really bad things.
Sometimes, maybe because they had a lot of hate inside, or maybe because their egos were damaged from years of abuse, the prophets used the knowledge they had acquired from their glimpse to manipulate and control. They created fancy sounding names for themselves, used deep and mystical symbols, developed complicated "magical" rituals, and sometimes even manipulated people into picking up deadly instruments.
And sometimes these prophets-turned-messiahs harmed only a few people. (manson, coolaid),
But sometimes they harmed millions.
And that was bad.
Fortunately, however, that didn't happen too often.
Most of the time the priests and the profits provided impotent meaning and harmless mystical sound bytes, and this helped relieve the depression, but not everybody was satisfied. Eventually, a few of the people, let's call them the visionaries, grew unsatisfied. These visionaries looked at the priests in their castles and the profits driving their BMWs, and they scratched their heads and they said "this can't be right."
"All we do is struggle in darkness, suffer, and bump into each other."
"We follow their directions, we listen to their advice, we meditate, we sit in lotus, we smile, we accept, but nothing changes."
"Things are still deteriorating and we are still bumping into each other."
"Something," they said, "is not right with the priests, the prophets, and their explanations."
And of course, they were right.
There was something wrong with the prophets and the priests.
Their explanations were partial, confused, and tinged with fear, ego and greed and the visionaries could sense this and they couldn't accept and so they walked out into the desert and ate and drank and one day the blindfold fell off and when that happened they got a full on, unobstructed view of everything.
And just like the prophets before them, they were scared and confused and they put the blindfold straight back on.
However unlike the prophets, they didn't let fear, confusion, greed, or ego get the better of them. Instead, the visionaries took the time they needed to deal with their fear and work through their confusion and when they had controlled their ego and integrated their powerful vision, they tried again. Off came the blindfold only the second time, they weren't so overwhelmed and so the blind fold stayed off a little longer, and that allowed them to get a better look.
Of course, even the second time around they were still scared and confused by what they saw. It was still information overload and some of them gave into the fear and confusion, dropped out, and became either priests or prophets. However others stuck with it and they took the time to process and deal with their ego, confusion, and fear and they tried again. Off came the blindfold only this time they kept their eyes open a little longer, and got an even better look and so, on it went until eventually some one or another of these hard working visionaries managed to get comfortable enough with a full dose of reality that they could take the blindfold off permanently!
And that was cool because with the blindfold off, and with full vision restored, the Truth was as obvious as slap in the face.
No longer did the visionaries have to guess, like the priests, or confabulate, like the prophets.
Now they simply knew.
It had nothing to do with "sin," nothing to do with evolution, nothing to do with karma, and nothing to do with anything that the priests or prophets said at all.
The Truth was obvious and the problem was simple.
People were wearing blindfolds and all they had to do to make everything better was find a way to control their fear, integrate reality, and take them off.
It was that simple and so that is exactly what the visionaries told the people.
As soon as the visionaries realized the truth, they started to talk and no matter who they were they all said exactly the same thing.
They said "hey, it's not hard at all!"
"Just take it easy and take your time."
"Don't be afraid."
"Integrate, process, and pretty soon you'll have full vision back."
"It's easy, beautiful, and wonderful and when you finally get it," they would say, "everything will change for the better."
"Just like that!" and they snapped their fingers.
Now you have to admit, it was an exciting message however, unlike what you might think, the people didn't buy into it as quick as all that. There was skepticism and doubt and who could blame them. After all, they'd been listening to the priests and the prophets provide partial Truth [snakeoil] and no solutions for so long that they doubted whether anybody could ever offer them real Truth, real solutions, and real change.
But the visionaries knew the Truth.
They knew they were right and they were very persistent.
They kept repeating the same messages over and over and eventually a few people started to take them seriously, and they followed their advice and pretty soon, they overcame fear and confusion and lifted their blindfolds off.
And that started a buzz because the people had finally found a way forward.
And that was great for them, but not so good for the priests and the prophets who were threatened by what the visionaries were saying. After all, the visionaries were offering full capital "T" truth and real blindfold removal solutions and frankly, that made the priests and the prophets look silly, uninformed, and even a little greedy.
People were starting to see through and that made them uncomfortable, so uncomfortable in fact that they all realized that if they were going to be able to protect themselves and their lifestyles, they'd have to stop the visionaries from talking and stop the people from taking off their blindfolds; and sadly, there were a lot of things they could do towards that end.
For example, seeing that people almost always experienced fear when they first tipped the blindfold off, the priests and prophets could stoke that fear with stories of demons, apocalypse, rapture, death, destruction, and woe.
Or, seeing that the people always experienced confusion when they first tipped the blindfold off, the priests and prophets could heighten that confusion by using lots of big words, complicated sentences, illogic, and contradiction.
They could also teach wrong technique!
Not really wanting the people to be free of darkness, the priests and prophets could teach people expensive and showy, but ultimately impotent, methods of removing the blindfold.
But that didn't stop the visionaries.
Not only were they persistent, but they could see exactly what the priests and prophets were trying to do and they pointed that out, and while a lot of people were turned away, or turned around, or taken in, some weren't and they listened to the visionaries and they removed their blindfolds and the buzz grew louder and louder and pretty soon it was clear that the priests and the prophets were losing their struggle. And that got them really upset and so they got together and they attacked the visionaries. They tried to discredit them and ridicule them and when that didn't work, tried to tempt them. They offered them power and money and sex and stopped at nothing to get them to stop talking and change their tune.
And truly a lot of visionaries gave in.
Hurt by the name calling, shamed by the ridicule, or wooed by the temptations and power, they either stopped talking altogether or became like the priests and the prophets.
But not all visionaries succumbed.
Every once in a while a visionary would prove stronger than the ridicule, and unsusceptible to the name calling, and immune to the temptations. They would talk, the people would listen, and the buzz would grow louder. But that got the priests and prophets even more upset and when they could see that nothing else would work to stop the buzz, they murdered the visionaries and started wars to kill all those stupid enough to have taken the blindfold off. And that really put a kybosh on the process because whenever that happened it took a long time before anybody could summon up the courage to try again.
But, of course, eventually, someone would try again.
It might take a decade, or a generation, but eventually new visionaries would emerge and they would teach and the people would listen and the buzz would grow with results so predictable that the priests and the prophets could wave their plastic wands, poof their smoke machines, roll out their Hollywood Blockbusters, and reveal everything that was "destined" to happen even before it actually did.
You have to admit, it was a bit of a quandary which was made even worse by the fact that as each generation passed, conditions in the once utopian society got worse and worse. The blindfolded people kept bumping into things and breaking them and they just got meaner, and uglier and the whole situation went straight down the tubes. People were being raped and abused, children were dying of hunger, war and killing had become a permanent fixture, and the environment was slowly being destroyed by the blindfolded denizens of our once proud society.
But that didn't stop the visionaries.
Even though they knew the risks, even though they saw their colleagues succumb to fear, confusion, temptation, and even murder, they kept coming and they kept building and one day a visionary was born that did not give in to fear, and would not be confused, and could not be tempted. And, looking back on the mistakes and failures of those who had come before, this visionary constructed a message that was pure and powerful, with advice that was strong and true, and it made visionaries out of everybody who listened. And that started a buzz that spread like a wildfire that quickly overwhelmed the priests, prophets, and everybody else too greedy, frightened, or confused to take their blindfolds off.
But that was ok because as more and more people took their blindfolds off it didn't take too long for spontaneous rejoicing and celebration to break out and frankly, when that started to happen, the fear and the confusion and the greed and the anger all began to melt away like ice in the noonday sun and the priests and the profits and all the others who had failed to get their blindfolds off in the past, well they scratched their scalp and they turned their heads and they took of their blindfolds. And when they did all they saw were the open arms of the smiling, shiny, and radiant people welcoming them back and asking them, humbly but with forgiveness, love, and peace, to help rebuild a world that had once been their home.
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