Caves and Truth

Is thetruthabout just the facts? Or is italso about the person telling you those facts? People in the workplace as well as the courtroom are of course concerned with complete accuracy in theory, but research shows that it is not clear that the memory system of humans has accuracy as its primary goal in everyday life. In short, after an important event, you tell a story about it, and you eventually come to believe your own story. But there is the subterranean world beneath the surface where sometimes the truth resides. As I reflect on below the surface places, Coleridge’s great poem Kubla Khan came to mind and I drew some images of caves and their mysterious similarity to the truth.

“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.”

Caves are cool. Tennessee is full of caves. I had several favorites as a kid but it would have been a real mission to have explored all 8.500 of them that lie beneath the rolling hills of this state. Caves are chocked full of interesting things that you do notoften get to see above the ground like, bats, salamanders, crayfish, and all sorts of invertebrates. That made My Nature Conservancy Newsletter this month hit home as it reminded me that we have 44 rare and some of them endangered species living in Tennessee caves. Now rare to me means precious and precious means something valuable and to be prized. Wealth may be more about an ugly albino crayfish living in a hole in the ground than a piece of paper with green and black ink on it, though I am not opposed to having ample quantities of each. I am after all a capitalist environmentalist not ashamed to say I like the adventures that money affords me. Over three hundred years ago, Thomas Haynes Bayly wrote Friends depart and memory takes them/ To her caverns, pure and deep. That has me thinking that it is but at the same time it isn’t just about caves. Nothing that happens to you is exactly about what is happening to you but is far more profound and is far beneath thetop layer like a grotto. This life we experience is a campus designed for our higher education. Caves have and will always be an allegory for that truth for me and but one of many classrooms that the SupremeSpelunker has prepared. Quite simply, we can learn the lessons that our lives present to us or we can refuse them. What we can not do is evade the penalty of our “actions” made in the instant of choice. The truth can be diverted but it can’t be denied in the end. At the core of what I believe is thatall things must pass”. I want caves filled with the richness and diversity of creation to be until their time is over and likewise the same for me in terms of my worldly life along with them.But know this about me. I choose to allow that coming day of my fated “death” to claim me but until then I am learning to undress myself of whatever this old planet demands of me with all of its fears. I arrived here buck naked, crying and kicking without a single possession. I will take my final nap here wearing nothing but a smile. Then I will awaken and continue my journey.
* “Epimenides was sent by his father into the field to look for a sheep, turned out of the road at mid-day and lay down in a certain cave and fell asleep, and slept there fifty-seven years; and after that, when awake, he went on looking for the sheep, thinking that he had been taking a short nap.”


Entrance to Bunkum Cave.
The entrance to Bunkum Cave in Tennessee.
Photo Dr. Julian Lewis

*– Diogenes Laertius, Epimenides,ii, from “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers,” Translated by C. D. Yonge, B. A., with occasional corrections, Bohn’s Classical Library

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