Stop Singing and Start Flying: Escaping Cages of Your Own Design (“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”)

I read a LinkedIn post earlier today written by Kellye Whitney, who I did not know before seeing this. She’s a lot bigger deal than me, so when she wrote “I Know Why the Caged Employee Sings,” she garnered a fair response, some of it really negative. It’s happened to me a few times, and it surprises me because, like Kellye, I write about things that I hope will help the individual and, thereby, the society in which they live.

Her article is an overt allusion to Maya Angelou’s poem and book of the same title “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” both very powerful pieces about the issues of race and gender, things I have referred to in earlier writings. Powder keg, right? Why bring it up?

The fact that it is a powder keg says that such issues are still issues. And I want to address them because my basic reason for writing focuses on helping others to discover self. When issues like racism continue to be difficult, they tell me that very many folks have not awakened to self or listened to their hearts and that they have chosen heart over ego as their primary life filter.

Some people would ask why consideration of something that is classified as metaphysical is even germane to a societal, political debate. I will tell you why, as far as I’m concerned. The solution of discovering self was an option 300 years ago or so when African slavery was being developed. When one knows and listens to her or his own heart, that person does not initiate death, destruction, or suffering. I don’t know and can’t judge if others are moving according to their own hearts and life purpose, except according to this one rule: initiate no harm. Societal problems begin with individual choice and individuals, especially a historically privileged majority, who use their egos to influence others to un-hearty ends.

All of us are created equal, by virtue of our humanity. When that hasn’t fit some ruling elite’s definition, they reclassify humans as non-humans — beasts or property. God, that makes me gag to write it because that’s exactly what is done and then justified by those idiots using education, religion, and societal “norms.” And it is true that America and many other developed nations have officially ameliorated those horrific concepts; however, that spirit of elitism and ruling class mentality today carries the spiritual echo and energies of past times.

How? In what ways are these past energies radiating the hatred and contempt of one group of human beings for others? I could point out the un-freakin’-believable number of hate groups active today or the stupid stereotyping that occurs or negative comments on social media. Or moronic politicians proposing some actions that are as heartless as those who encouraged and accepted slavery to begin with. The lack of freedom, though, is the ultimate proof that the negative energies of the past still influence the present.

The lack of freedom — let’s go back to Maya Angelou’s poem: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Just a few quick quotes.

“A free bird leaps on the back / Of the wind and floats downstream…The free bird thinks of another breeze…” The freedom of the free bird allows it to follow its heart and claim his own domain.

The caged bird? “His wings are clipped and his feet are tied / So he opens his throat to sing…A fearful trill of things unknown / But longed for still…For the caged bird sings of freedom.” The only thing left to a bird that is captive, kept for the pleasure of the owner, and handicapped so that it cannot escape — draw all the analogies you wish — the only thing left is to sing of that which it cannot know, dream of unknown joys.

Please think about a few questions. Who imprisons the bird? What would the bird do if set free? If the birds whose wings are not clipped and whose feet are not tied willingly walked into the cage, would they really be free? Why do I ask these questions?

In my humble but considered opinion, in this day and age whenever confrontations erupt as evoked by Kellye Whitney’s article and the comments in response to that, neither white birds nor black birds who engage in such responses are free. They are encaged by their own egos. For the formerly caged birds, the door has been opened, feet have been freed, and healing has been applied. For the ever-free birds who feel an ego-driven need to re-cage the now freed birds, they willingly cage themselves. Both stand around in the cage chattering at one another and going nowhere.

Specific issues can be addressed, and they should be as Ms. Whitney did in a professional, kind way. And there are ways that wings of some minorities which had been clipped in the past still affects them. But to those who have awakened to self and hear and follow their hearts, no limits bar their flight any longer — black or white. Any birds who stay in the cage are bound by their own bars of ego, and that certainly creates rage.

The plea here is this: Freedom exists for those who will seek and live core Self. And sometimes, in some areas, where conformity is not followed, where differences from the majority are not favored, and subsequent efforts are made to subdue the nonconformists, THEN enlightened society needs to take action. Members of the majority who oafishly say they are equal and had it just as hard are kidding themselves. African Americans and women, in many instances, have research and statistical proof that wings have been clipped. If you are white and male and claim that is not so, then wake up.

But beyond that, I say again, the way and fellowship of the heart is open to all. Get there. Fly free. Don’t longingly sing of unknown freedoms, bound by your own bars of ego. Fly to freedom. Get out of the cage because the door is open.

If you have never read the book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, you should. Maya Angelou flew free, you know, by unabashedly declaring and living her heart.