A Different Way of Looking At Life – A Spiritual Story by Daniel Frankel

Once upon a time, there were three babies and an ogre. The ogre kept them chained inside a cave facing the wall and with their backs against the entrance of the cave so they could never see what was happening outside of the cave. They were not allowed to go outside and experience the world.

Since they grew up in the dark, their eyes adapted to the darkness and the only thing they could see were shadows on the wall in front of them coming from objects reflected by the light outside of the cave.

Since this is all they had seen all their life, shadows on a wall, life seemed normal to them; they believed that this is the way in which all people lived.

Out of boredom, they started giving names to the shadows on the wall and guessing what the shadows could be. Identifying the shadows became a fun activity for them.

One of them was the smartest, and he never missed identifying the right shapes of the shadows. The second guy was correct most of the times and the last one was almost always wrong with his guesses. Because of this, the two later guys always looked up to the first one; they thought he was super smart as he was always correct.

Many years later after the boys had grown up, the ogre went for a walk one day. At the same time, a man from the outside world was walking by and heard the three guys talking. The man walked into the cave and was stunned to see these young men chained inside the cave. Still in shock at what he had found, he asked … What are you guys doing here? Who is keeping you here? This is so wrong … who would do such a thing to you?

As he asked, he reached into his backpack and pulled his tools to cut the chains of the smart guy who immediately screams at him … What are you doing? Leave me here, this is my home! Why are you taking away my chains?

The stranger kept on releasing him while saying … No, you don't understand. It is not normal to live life like this. You shouldn't be here. There is a whole world out there waiting for you. You shouldn't be here

Really? -the smart guy says- OK, I want to see this great outside world you speak of, where is it?

Just as the stranger tries to release the other two young men, he hears the ogre so they both run away promising the other two men that they'd come back to free them as well.

Lead by the stranger and almost blinded by the sunlight, the smart guy keeps on running until they get to a safe place. It takes him quite some time to adapt his eyes to the bright light from the sun, but once he does, he is marveled at the things he is seeing. The stranger starts showing him and explaining all kinds of things like colors, flowers and objects like cars, houses, buildings, and other things we normally see in the world we live today.

All of a sudden, the smart guy understands the impact of having being chained inside that cave for so long. He realizes all what he had missed from the outside world and that there are millions of things that he wants to see and experience in this world. Then he thinks about his friends in the cave and wants to go back and free them to share and discover this outside world with them too.

He decides to go back to the cave and tell his friends about this outside world, but he soon discovers that they have the same reaction that he did as he tries to break the chains that keep them in the cave.

They asked him to put the chains back on them because this is their world and they perceive it as normal. He tries to convince them to no avail. Finally, one of them says … OK, we will go with you but first tell us … What is that shadow on the wall right now?

As the smart guy tried to focus on the wall he couldn't see anything. He couldn't answer because his eyes were used to the bright sunlight now and they were taking longer to adapt to the darkness of the cave.

His two friends just looked at each other in disbelief. From their perspective he had lost his intelligence. This smart friend that they always looked up to for answers had become dumb.
From their point of view, he came back dumber from the outside world so they decided not to follow him.

This little story was written by 15-year old Daniel Frankel, and here's what he has to say about how writing this story has impacted him:

This story had an influence in my life because it has made me think of the different angles in which you can look at life. I can choose to turn around anytime and go out of the cave to look at the world for what it actually is instead of just looking at my average daily life, looking at the same things I see every day (like the shadows on the cave's wall) and doing the same things I do every day. I rather go outside of the cave and take a look at the overall picture of the world, learn new things and get my own ideas, views and perceptions.

This story changed my way of thinking and the way I look at life now. I'm the one that decides to live my life exactly the same way I did before I read this story, or if I let it influence my life for the better. I had the choice to forget about it the second I finished reading it or to use it as inspiration to explore the outer world. After all, it's really all about the decisions we make and our way of thinking, and every experience allows us to grow. It's all a choice.

I hope you enjoyed the story, and my opinion.

Another interpretation for the Meaning of this Story

This story holds within it a profound spiritual lesson about the nature of perception and the power of awareness. It teaches us that our understanding of reality is often shaped by our limited experiences and perspectives, much like the shadows on the cave wall that the young men mistook for the entirety of existence. In our own lives, we may be imprisoned by the illusions of our mind, unable to see beyond the shadows that obscure the truth of who we are and what lies beyond the confines of our perceived reality.

Moreover, the story highlights the importance of questioning the beliefs and assumptions that confine us, as demonstrated by the young man's realization upon encountering the stranger. By challenging the status quo and daring to explore the unknown, we open ourselves to new possibilities and expand our understanding of the world around us. It reminds us that growth and transformation require us to step outside of our comfort zones and embrace the unfamiliar, even when it challenges our preconceived notions of reality.

Furthermore, the story underscores the significance of empathy and compassion in our interactions with others. The young man's initial reaction upon encountering the stranger exemplifies the human tendency to resist change and cling to familiar patterns, even when they no longer serve us. Yet, it is through the stranger's compassionate intervention and guidance that the young man is able to break free from the shackles of his limited perception and discover the beauty and abundance that await him beyond the cave walls.

Additionally, the story emphasizes the power of choice in shaping our destiny and reclaiming our freedom. Despite the young man's newfound awareness of the world outside the cave, he ultimately chooses to return to his friends and share his newfound wisdom with them. His willingness to confront the illusions that bind them demonstrates his commitment to their collective liberation and underscores the transformative power of love and solidarity in transcending the limitations of our individual perspectives.

Moreover, the story serves as a reminder of the inherent resilience of the human spirit and our capacity for growth and self-discovery. Despite the initial resistance of his friends to embrace the truth of their existence, the young man's unwavering commitment to their liberation reflects his deep faith in their potential to awaken to the truth and reclaim their autonomy. It is a testament to the enduring power of hope and perseverance in overcoming even the most formidable obstacles on the path to enlightenment.

Furthermore, the story invites us to reflect on the nature of truth and perception and the role they play in shaping our understanding of reality. Just as the young man's friends struggle to comprehend his changed perspective upon his return to the cave, we are reminded of the subjective nature of truth and the limitations of our own perceptions. It challenges us to question the validity of our beliefs and remain open to the possibility of alternative perspectives that may offer deeper insights into the mysteries of existence.

In essence, this story serves as a profound allegory for the spiritual journey of awakening and self-discovery. It reminds us that true liberation lies not in the shadows of ignorance and illusion but in the light of awareness and truth. As we navigate the complexities of our own lives, may we remember the lessons of the cave and dare to step outside the confines of our comfort zones in search of the profound truths that await us beyond the shadows of our perception.

Personal Reflection Questions

Spiritual stories are an opportunity to reflect on your own life. Here are 10 questions you can use to go deeper with the teachings in this story:

  1. Have you ever felt confined by your circumstances, unable to see beyond the shadows that surround you?
  2. What shadows in your life do you find comfort in, despite their limitations and illusions?
  3. Reflect on a time when you resisted change or new perspectives, clinging to familiarity even when it no longer served you. What did you learn from that experience?
  4. Consider the role of curiosity and imagination in shaping our perception of reality. How does our willingness to question the status quo influence our ability to grow and evolve?
  5. Think about the significance of the smart guy's initial reluctance to leave the cave, despite the stranger's offer of freedom. What fears or attachments might be holding you back from embracing new opportunities and experiences?
  6. Explore the theme of liberation and its relationship to self-discovery. How does breaking free from the constraints of our comfort zones allow us to uncover hidden truths and unlock our full potential?
  7. Contemplate the importance of empathy and compassion in guiding others toward enlightenment. How can we support and uplift those who may be trapped in their own metaphorical caves of ignorance and fear?
  8. Reflect on the concept of perception versus reality and the ways in which our beliefs shape our understanding of the world. How do our preconceived notions and biases influence our interpretation of events and experiences?
  9. Consider the transformative power of knowledge and enlightenment in transcending the limitations of our conditioning. How has expanding your awareness opened new pathways for growth and self-realization?
  10. Finally, ponder the profound truth that sometimes, our greatest wisdom may appear foolish to others who remain entrenched in their own limited perspectives. How can we cultivate humility and openness to new ideas, even when they challenge our deeply held beliefs?