“The bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light.”
—Socrates by way of Plato, The Republic
When my brother first came back from living abroad, I remember he looked different. He had a smile, a Kangol hat, and a warm glow of contentment and confidence. It was as if he knew exactly who he was and where he was going.
This image has stuck with me over the years and has always reminded me of the Greek philosopher Plato’s ‘Theory of Forms.’ Plato held that we live in an imperfect world of shadows, with the true, perfect essence of things, their true ‘form’ existing beyond us in some ideal, spiritual plane. According to Plato, we can attempt to know the true form of things, including ourselves, but it will always remain elusive to our grasp in this life.
The reason what I saw in my brother on that day, whether real or imagined, has always reminded me of Plato’s ‘forms’ is because I think that, at certain times in our lives, even if for a brief moment, if we are truly fortunate, we experience the truth of our ourselves in our ideal form. All of our shadows give way to the light and we glow as the best versions of ourselves in the reality of who and what we are meant to be.
Rightly or wrongly, I believe that we all deserve to experience ourselves in this way at one point or another, that we all deserve to live in the light, to grow familiar our own truth, and to stand tall, confident, and radiant in who we are. Beyond that, I also believe that we have a duty to see the light in others, to look beyond their shadows, and to embrace their truth, their essence, and their ideal form, even if it does not yet exist as such in this world.
Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.
Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh unless otherwise noted.
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