"Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage."(Richard Lovelace, English Poet)
Growing up with rodents as pets has been a delight for me. Every hamster, every gerbil, every tiny little white mouse has meant as much to me as the most faithful of dogs or the most mischievous of cats. Over the years, one common behaviour exhibited by these tiny beasts was their insatiable need for escape. It mattered little how small or how furry, each one constantly made their attempts to break free. One gerbil disappeared into the floorboards, never to be seen again. Another managed to scale their wall, only to be met with doom at the paws of a looming predator. Such misery left little choice but to leave these smaller rodents behind me and I switched to keeping larger and more intelligent rats. My greatest concern upon their acquisition was how to properly keep them safe. Two cats waiting for a taste of these morsels made the choice in cage easy and the location of that cage isolated. The first time I discovered that I had left the enclosure door open, my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. There sat both critters, content in their surroundings, immune to waiting freedom. It was almost like they knew.It was hard to accept in the beginning. All those years of chasing vermin left me conditioned to security and safety and a high roost. By the act of not thinking, I have stumbled upon an open cage many times since my indoctrination. Every time, they sit contented, almost fearful of being removed. When I clean the shelter every Saturday, they scuffle about, persistent in a return to their nest. You can tell it is the only place they wish to be. You can tell that they already think they are free. To them, outside the cage is madness. On occasion, when I give them a treat they will check out the other side, but only in glimpses. First a nose, then a head, then suddenly they withdraw. You can see the trepidation in their fuzzy faces. You can recognize their fear by the sudden jump back. I can only assume that the greater intelligence of these surprisingly lovely gnawers has silenced any need to conquer the world that exists outside of their hiding place. They know they are far better off inside than out. For them, the bars and the shavings and the things that they know are home, not a cage.
“Most people would look at an animal in a cage and instinctively feel that it should be set free .... It's a dangerous world out there, filled with predators .... What would you prefer? A comfortable, safe, warm, cosy life in a cage, or an uncertain life of freedom.”(Going Out, Scarlett Thomas 2002)
It didn't take much time for the brainwashing. After only 3 months as a member of theWhen my friend Haydn Jensen asked me to go with him to a Great White Brotherhood meeting on the
, I was convinced they held the
path to my salvation. I was indoctrinated, pacified and I believed this type of
community would be the very best thing for me. This kind of Church could assist
me in finding the God I had always strived to know better. The message conveyed
held so many promises, promises I had come to rely on in my spiritual quest for
freedom. My questioning heart, my sinful ways, and especially my homosexuality
were only markings on a yet to be glorified body. In spite of my new found
pseudo-lifestyle, I remained silent of it at school. I have no idea how religiosity
is viewed in a more modern educational environment, but in 1981, in grade
eleven, silence regarding such things was in one's best interest. Pentecostal Church
The love of God is supposed to make a person kind and non-judgmental. Perhaps this explains why I never really felt The Great Commission of Christianity was anything but a scare tactic that played on the weak and vulnerable. At the time, I was just doing what I had been instructed was required of me to achieve salvation. Without hesitation, I attacked him for exposing us to this spiritual fabrication. I fully took the opportunity, like I was supposed to, and I condemned the evening as temptation brought on by the devil. I evangelized the very best way I knew how and tried to shove the Lord Jesus Christ down my friend's throat. To say the least, he was not impressed. Haydn never really spoke to me again after that night. He was distant, aloof and our friendship ended in the parking lot on that cool November evening.
All the time that has passed since that ambush has only convinced me how wrong I was for trying to convince my one-time friend of my then Christian way of thinking. I myself left that faith structure many years ago. Other than through social networking, I have no real idea what happened to Haydn. I realize that the cage I tried to place upon him that night was the very same trap I later fled from in disgust. Haydn, it appears, took a different path. I can only assume through his involvement with the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship of Canada, the Gentle Shepherd Christian Church, and other faith related organizations, that he did not join the Great White Brotherhood but chose Jesus instead. How ironic. It appears he has become a full-blown, Bible-clutching Christian in his own right. I am led to believe that I went one way and he found himself where I had been. It's strange to think of him as a Christian now, considering how angry he was that night so many years ago. He condemned me harshly for trying to convert him. He took away our friendship without even consulting me. I can only presume that left to his own volition, it was just fine for him to make that decision on his own. How uneasy rest all my questions, like a puzzle that just doesn't make sense. To trade one cage for the same cage just seems both hypocritical and repugnant to me.
“Those ignoramuses who think that birds are happy in their cages know not a single thing about freedom!” (Mehmet Murat ildan, Turkish author)
She was just so scared of her own death. As the disease ate away at her, her fear grew. As her fear grew, she fought and fought to remain on this plane of existence. She would cry herself to sleep then cry herself awake, all the while she trembled at the injustice of it all. She refused to talk it over with anyone. The fact she was not long for this world was not a topic that was open to discussion. If it did happen to come up in conversation, she would wheel herself into another room or pull the sheets over her head. She even screamed at us, demanding that we all "just shut the fuck up about it." As she grew frailer, she withdrew further into herself. The only companion she would even recognize was a copy of the Bible that her mother had left next to her bed. She spent her last days frantically searching in it for anything that might save her. As the end approached, she resigned herself to the fate she had once laughed at with great cynicism. All the drugs, and the prostitution, have given her little but for a virus, a life of regret and the few belongings that were scattered around her room at the hospice. In the end, she did not go gently into the night. She raged, oh how she raged.They say that some birds are not meant to be caged. Other birds cannot escape their cage, no matter how hard they try. It keeps them, all of their lives, and they are never able to truly fly free. Samantha used to tell me that she didn't believe in hell because nothing could be worse than the life she had lived. She always figured she could approach anything holy when the time required her to do so. As her end quickly approached, I suppose she had much explaining to do, at least in her mind. On the last day of her life, the doctors came and the doctors went. They took one last poke and one last prod just for good measure. They told us that it would not be long. As she faded in and out of consciousness, as we all gathered closer to support each other, her mother opened the Bible she had previously left and she began to read from it. Just before her final breath, just before her demise, Sam smiled ever so softly then fell into sleep. After all those years of pain, and all the years she denied herself happiness, finally someone opened the cage door and she slipped away, never to be caged again.
"The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom."
(Maya Angelou, American Poet)
We all spend our lives searching for something to believe in. Once we find it, it rarely remains the same as when we found it. Faith grows. Faith evolves. Faith changes. Those who refuse to admit this is so stay huddled, never knowing what outside their cage might offer. Their freedom is relative and so is their Faith. Those who search for Faith, but on their own terms, usually end up in the same cage as everyone else. Faith can be our refuge, a safety we desperately try to maintain. Faith might be a choice that we make for ourselves, no matter how it inconveniences everyone else's plans for us. Regardless, when it all comes down, Faith should be our comfort when the unknown approaches. After all, that's what Faith is really for.
I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsMaya Angelou, 1969