“You know, at one time, I used to break into pet shops to liberate the canaries.
But I decided that was an idea way before its time.
Zoos are full, prisons are overflowing… oh my, how the world still dearly loves a cage.”
Maude <Harold & Maude>
“A cage went in search of a bird.”
“They make cages in all shapes and sizes.”
Bert <Mary Poppins>
Cages. …. we love ’em … and hate ’em.
Yeah. Really. Like ’em. It certainly does seem that people like them <despite how we seem to grouse & bitch about them>.
Not only do we put things in cages to ‘protect ourselves’ but often we put ourselves in them to … well … protect ourselves <go figure>.
Well … at least we think we are protecting ourselves.
While some people may refer to these things as boundaries or rules or … well … let’s just say we find a variety of words & terms to call them anything but cages.
Because referring to them as cages because ‘cage’ implies being trapped.
And. let’s face it, trapped is only good when it comes to others and ‘bad things.’
<It was Maude who said … “zoos are crowded, prisons are overflowing … oh how the world still dearly loves a cage.”>
Let’s be clear … this whole cage thing is not just society … not just zoos and prisons … but ourselves and our lives.
And here is the truly crazy thing about us people <and why we seem to like cages a bit>.
We find real freedom a little difficult to embrace.
No boundaries … no ‘box’ … no fences … well … those things scare the shit out of us.
So what do we do?
We build cages.
And then we ask people to step into them and say … okay … you will now live in them.
It may make you feel uncomfortable … REALLY uncomfortable when you think about it … but our world does like cages … and most of us do also.
I guess for a number of reasons … but first and foremost I imagine it is control … or boundaries … and at its worst … containment.
And despite the fact we like them … as we look around we don’t really see the cages we live in or the cages we have elected to put ourselves in <or we just don’t see them as cages>.
Why? Because the tricky thing is that not all cages have obvious bars.
Because the cage you have put yourself in to live your Life may simply have bars called “hesitance’ … or ‘fear’ … or ‘not good enough’ or ‘not supposed to do’ or even ‘what is normal <or the social norms.’
These are cages & fences & bars we create for ourselves.
Something that could potentially set you free.
Inevitably this all just means never being able to live freely <in whatever form you can envision a cage>.
And, in the end, you end up living caged by some type of fear and that, my friends, is not a life fully lived. Or maybe <less harshly> it is simply a life minimized by a cage.
Here is the good news <albeit sad news>.
If you choose to live in a cage you will find a shitload of people in there with you.
“Caged birds accept each other but flight is what they long for.”
Oops. Here is the bad news.
Let’s call the bad news … human nature.’
Because all the while … while this cage is filled with a shitload of people … you will always feel some sense of restlessness <even though everyone in there has actually chosen to be in that cage>.
We always want more than what we have.
We look at things outside the cage we have elected to stand in.
Most likely we see the birds as symbols of freedom.
Some reside in cages … in the frickin’ cage we stand in.
Some not in cages flying free.
Regardless … we look at birds & cages and think.
And think a lot about the fact that a flock of birds in flight is perhaps the most expressive image of freedom.
And some of us think of the warning Sancho Panza gave Don Quixote …
“… there are no birds in the country except wild birds that are tamed and kept in cages.”
Wild makes us excited and scared … just as cages make us feel comfortable … and uncomfortable.
That is the Life paradox <or one of them>.
We always think about … well … fleeing.
We flee commitment.
We flee responsibilities.
We flee risk.
We flee … well … pick it.
We flee when given the opportunity because no one likes to feel tamed or tied by some ‘thing’.
And yet we stay because of … well … commitment, responsibility & risk. Holy shit … we stay for the same reasons we flee <that sucks>.
All those things said.
Cages are really about only one thing … not society … not rules or laws … just … well … us <or you>.
It is our quest for self that is what taking flight from our cage is all about. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Maybe it is as simple as understanding that we are actually in cages … and deciding to speak out or act out. And, in the same breath, the understanding to action relationship, is as complicated as anything we know.
Because the actual step, the action after the understanding, toward freedom takes courage or bravery in some sense … to break free takes doing it while being afraid.
It means not accepting and allowing yourself to be captive of your own thinking … captive to what you may have accepted and allowed within your life.
It means having the strength to admit there is some structure that you are locked in and cannot get out. Structure? Think of the cage bars being made of questions like this:
– Are afraid that what you want to do might not impress people around you?
– Do you act ‘normal’ <what is expected> all the time?
– Do you always <most of the time> do what others say?
– Do you avoid saying ‘no’ when someone asks you to go out of your way to make them comfortable?
– Do you get talked into doing something that you don’t want to do?
– Do you do something just so someone won’t get mad at you?
This ‘cage list’ can get pretty extensive if you care to think about it long enough.
But, all the questions aside, simplistically … being caged comes down to not being free to do what you want … or achieve something that you want to achieve. And, by the way, this can be a real cage as well as a mental cage.
I am certainly not suggesting this discussion with oneself is easy.
But I also do imagine remaining caged is like … well … as I thought about this … living a life of quiet desperation.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.
From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats.
A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work.
But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do “desperate things.”
And I also imagine that part of this desperation of a Life being caged means other people <individuals or society> have imposed their will on you and you end up not doing what you truly desire.
Talking about being caged is depressing.
As I pondered his desperation thing I reread something a teen in Australia wrote about being caged:
<a 17 year old from Australia>
I want to spread my wings and be free
But you keep stapling my wings together
Its like you want to keep me caged
never allowed to move forward
not allowed to make my own mistakes
Tell me this; how am i supposed to learn?
when im caged, when im being held
from the thing i want most
My heart knows it wants to be free
So please let me go, let me start
Set me free
Let me start to live
I’m so tired of being caged
Maybe what leads us into the Thoreau desperation is that … whether we recognize it or not … I tend to believe we all get a little tired of being caged.
We all feel twinges of ‘freedom’ nudging at us <that human nature thing I mentioned earlier> … if we could only get to that horizon.
But it is bigger than us … a just you & I thing … it is society. If you look close enough it can appear we, all of us together, have built a society where … well … in order to survive we must in effect build our own cages.
It sometimes appears that people have essentially caged themselves into having to conform to a rat race “being a winner is what counts’ system where they are required to spend the majority of their lives grinding their way through a shitload of joyless activities to earn whatever they need <and want> to support their existence <however they define existence … from survival to decadence>.
That thought <depressing as it may sound> leads me to this quote:
“… guests go to sleep.
May your dreams be blissful; forget that darkness falls on the cage we struggle in.”
As well as this thought.
“Each time I return [to the United States] I sense a further reduction in human liberties.
What I write it is, I guess you could say, a prayer for the wild at heart kept in cages … the romantic should have the spirit of anarchy and not let the world drag him down to its level.”
Society, in relation to ‘cages’, is a mixture of human liberties … which is actually a combination of “I” and “we.” A coexistence, a balance, of individualism and collectivism <pluralism>.
A balance between selfishness and sharing.
I think it would be silly to think none of us didn’t exist in some cage or another.
We all do.
Many of us may chafe at that thought but if we are really honest with ourselves … it is a Life truth.
And that said.
I do believe we naturally like cages as a society.
Or maybe better said … society naturally imposes some cages on civilization.
The constraints seemingly suggest less conflict. It suggests safeness and calmness.
And yet … we cannot really go around building cages for everyone all the time.
You just have to try and build a better world. And let better people <people just trying to be the best they can> roam that better world.
“You can’t go around building a better world for people.
Only people can build a better world for people.
Otherwise it’s just a cage.”
Frankly … what that means <to be able to do something like that> is you need to shed some cynicism <that everyone is selfish and it is a ‘me, me, me’ world.
To do something like that you need to shed some fear <that all risk will inevitably end up with bad results>.
To do something like that you need to embrace some hope <and embrace a little optimism>.
To do something like that you need to stop judging others a little bit more.
All of those things are simply decisions to open up a cage … or break the bars of some cage.
“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages. “
I have babbled about this ‘cage concept’ an Life for far too long today.
But … cages, and discussing this whole cage thing, is a very personal topic. And it is a passionate topic to me.
Here is what I hope.
I imagine I hope that the wild hearts always seek to escape the cages.
Maybe not anarchy … but stretch the bars of the cages so we can see more and … well … be more. Maybe become more aware, or more enlightened, of what resides within the cages we have created … as well as what resides ‘with-out’ these same cages.
That leads me to using some dialogue from the infamous movie Mary Poppins:
You know, begging your pardon, but the one my heart goes out to is your father.
There he is in that cold, heartless bank day after day, hemmed in by mounds of cold, heartless money.
I don’t like to see any living thing caged up.
In a cage?
They makes cages in all sizes and shapes, you know.
Bank-shaped, some of ’em, carpets and all.
Cages are not easy to spot.
They come in all shapes and sizes.
As for me?
“My devil had been long caged, he came out roaring.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
Doesn’t make me the most popular guy in the world.
But I like being free.
It feels good.
The world sure does like cages. And I don’t.