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Blumenberg opens this essay with a remarkable claim: "The city is a recapitulation of the cave, by other means."

The cave is among other things, the cave in which our ancestors lived and the cave which Socrates tells of in the Republic. Blumenberg mixes these two meanings together and links them in ways I would never have thought of before but which seem very plausible. The idea that the city is another expression of the same underlying reality (or better, "way of dealing with reality") as the cave -- this idea, which Blumenberg introduces here and which I think will be further developed in Part II, seems useful to me. The underlying nature of the city (and of the cave) is, "a shield against all realities which are not either brought forth by the city itself, or incorporated into it as mere materials."

It is part of the nature of a shield that the shield is strategically deployed by the being whom it shields -- a problem with taking Plato's allegory too literally is that the people in his cave are bound to their seats by deceitful captors; but the bit of the universe which the allegory describes is a strategy people have adopted to keep from being overwhelmed by the intensity of the present moment.

This evening on the subway I was thinking about this idea of the cave as a strategy. Picture the cave with its denizens not captives but audience -- a societal agreement to watch the projected images and call them reality. Here is the intersection of the cave allegory with the bicameral mind and with the ending of Gravity's Rainbow. I am not able at present to elaborate on this image and on the meanings I believe it to contain; but I hope to do so in the future.

When I think about how I want to "come out of the cave", what that means to me, I run again and again up against a paradox. I believe with Socrates that to be outside the cave means to be more completely a part of the world than I currently feel myself to be. But it means not participating in the constructed reality of society -- which would mean trouble interacting with other people, already not a strong suit of mine. In short -- I currently perceive myself as neither in the world nor in society; I wish devoutly to be both; but I cannot see how to move toward one without distancing myself from the other.