There is a beautiful song by Brett Dennen called “Ain’t no reason.” One of the lines in the song is, “Keep on building prisons gonna fill them all.” I love this song very much and I also find the metaphor of prisons to be very meaningful to me. A prison, of course, is a building meant to keep people from escaping. They are built to house people who have committed some kind of crime.
I am a prison builder – not literally but figuratively. I am a creative person who loves build things and create things that I become a slave to. My crime has been my lack of awareness that I am building prisons. Even my habits have become prisons. Anything that eventually takes away choice and takes away your power is a prison. My prisons are not grey and stark. They are not guarded by anybody but me. There are no barbwire fences either.
From the outside, most people would not see my prisons as prisons at all. Some people might look enviously at my prison as a wonderful creation or even an enviable lifestyle. The prison, is all a matter of perspective. At times, while living in my prison, I have been able to temporarily adjust my perspective and see it as a place where I can have some power and some choice. Like Viktor Frankl described in, “Man’s Search for Meaning” if people can find meaning, they can endure extreme conditions – for a time.
Eventually though, reality dominates the adjusted perspective and I am reminded that I am “doing time” in my own prison. Sometimes the prison is actually a thing I built or modified such as a house or a business or a vehicle. Sometimes the prison I built was a job or a lifestyle. Sometimes a relationship can become a prison. Even my drink, has become a prison. All of these prisons were of my design and were all prisons I chose to build. The building process is always the same. At first the prisons have no doors. I can come and go as I please. Soon, with each of the prisons, doors get installed, locks get installed, and keys become lost. My abilities to find meaning became more and more difficult. They soon started to resemble prisons. My power was gone. My choices were limited. Sadness, and even depression, set in. As time passed I became obsessed with the idea of breaking out of my prison. I couldn’t take it anymore. I cracked. There was no longer an ability to alter my perspective. I could not see the sun anymore.
I am fortunate. For almost every prison I have built, I have found a way out. Not only am I creative but I am an escape artist. Once I leave each prison, I vow never to go back – never build another prison! Each time I successfully escape, I look over my shoulder and see what I left behind. I see the legacy. Sometimes it isn’t pretty. There have been many people hurt as I escaped the prison. To those people, I am eternally sorry. I have regrets that invited many people into my prisons and when they weren’t looking, I ran. Eventually most of the people I left behind moved on but without question, forever changed.
I could accept some of my escapes if I learned some valuable lesson but in many cases, I have not. The only thing I can say, at this time in my life, a middle-aged man, is that I am aware of my proficiency in building prisons and escaping them. I never realized that this was my skill. I have taken years to hone this craft. I have finally become aware that this skill, while it has provided some colour to my life, is starting to take its toll. I am not young anymore. I cannot endure the physical and emotional stresses of prison building and escaping. I cannot take the burden of having more people left behind; the mountain of guilt is oppressive.
As I write this, I am aware of my current prisons and my need to escape from them. I know it seems like after this awareness, I shouldn’t be trying to escape again but I must. I must perform a few more escapes to get back to zero point. I need to escape and then be very, very still. I need to accept what I have done and make a pact with myself that from this zero point forward, I stop building prisons. I must learn to be still. I hope to never build a prison again. Maybe, sometime in the future, I will pick up my tools again but it will be a mindful build that never, never removes choice and never takes away my personal power.
Thanks for reading. I am working on my final escape plan now.