Our Many Prisons
Indicted. Convicted. Condemned. Unknowingly serving sentences handed down from a judge we never met. The jury was rigged and salivating with malice, eager to send us to our own unique brand of torment. Our continued pain built and maintains the walls and bars that confine us: the rusted metal cage forged in the fires of our own fear, brick walls built to fend off insecurity, and a window allowing the tiniest bit of hope to waft through, reinforcing how alone we actually are. These are prisons of fear, greed, righteousness, depression, justice, power, anxiety, and control. Cells of our own making, and even worse, refuse to leave.
While not physical locations, these jails are ever so real. What is reality anyway but the sum of our own inimitable perceptions? A few of these prisons are familiar. Fear is widely known to be crippling. Depression and anxiety known diseases. But what of righteousness and justice — they are good aren’t they? Greed, power, and control can be bad, but not always, right? The foundations of these prisons are laid very, very carefully. Properly mixed concrete of past experiences and predispositions poured over a rebar framework of trauma. Engineered to be unmovable, and covered with the soil of time, to hopefully be forgotten.
You may think you aren’t trapped. I sure as hell didn’t. You’re only greedy sometimes. With you in control things get done. Power is wonderful and you wield it gracefully. Like an addict needing an increasingly larger dose to feel at peace, so it is with power, control, and greed. Chasing one dopamine hit after another, there is no end. We begin stepping on others to reach new plateaus, and in our heads the ends justify the means. Or maybe you seek righteousness and justice to help others — but at what expense? Is holiness at the expense of the innocence truly holy? Is justice served at the expense of your humanity a fair trade? Are you seeking the moral and the just for the betterment of people, or to protect the prison you’ve created out of your own preconceived notions of what is fair? Because you would feel uncomfortable if you didn’t seek it your way?
It seems so simple — what do I want? Who am I as a person? What makes me happy? Why do I have so much, but still feel alone and afraid? Why do I have so little and how do I get more? Do I even want more? Do I even want what I have? Each of us must answer these questions ourselves; there is no mental health or morality trail guide to aid in our search. Without properly addressing the questions above, we will forever be trapped in prisons of our own making. Sure we may feel like we are free, but we return at the end of the day to a mind tethered by the insecurities and fears distilled over years of experiences, joys, traumas, setbacks, and successes. We often think we have escaped our prison of greed to end up unknowingly in a prison of anxiety, which leads us to one of control. Different scenery helps for a bit, maybe the window is a bit bigger and less rust on the bars; but it is cage just the same.
We keep searching for a way out our whole lives. The comfort and familiarity of these places is so, so powerful. We’ve convinced ourselves we can’t escape. We are so caught up in protecting what we have, we have forgotten to address the fact that it may not be anything close to what we want. So I dare you to ask: what is it that you want now, in the future? The easy mistake to make in this metaphor is that we clearly need to alter our foundations right? Figure out what we want and address our own genetic makeup and past trauma. To a degree, sure, but staring too long at a foundation that is already in place won’t get us any further towards freedom. We come to realize we’re still in the prison yard, only a hundred yards from the tiny cell we must return to at the end of the day.
The funny thing is, there are no guards at this prison. No warden. All the doors and main gate are unlocked. Why didn’t we figure this out? Because we keep staring at a foundation laid years ago and basking in the comfortable, but toxic glow of familiarity. Once we accept the fact that the past is just that, and familiarity isn’t worth a damn compared to the life of freedom outside those gates, we can do what we were always meant to: push open the cell door, walk out those gates, and take the world as it comes. Authentic, joyful, painful; but real.