By Debbie Olujobi
A prison can come in many shapes and forms. There are the physical prisons that people get sent to as a punishment for breaking the law. They are made of bricks and mortars; meant to trap people in confinement. Those prisons are institutions and infrastructures of dread; no normal person wants to end up there.
There are also prisons that cover far larger spaces than the penitentiaries; prisons that are mobile and never ending; dishing out torture per minute to anyone and everyone. The human mind is one of the most complex and fascinating parts of us but it is also powerful, wielding enormous power, capable of imprisoning the richest as well as the poorest. The mind can be a tool of reformation and power negatively or positively; it gathers information and absorbs them; using our pains, fears and insecurity to sentence us to a prison of our own making.
Prison is the exact opposite of liberty. A prisoner is captive, confined and restricted; most rights and privileges are forfeited. It is quite possible to be a free person walking the streets at will and be just as confined as the men in shackles behind bars.
Lately I have been pondering the concept of liberty in its true ramifications; wondering which one of us is ever truly free? I should state that I define prison as anything, place, situation or even person that bridles or stifles us. There is a popular phrase in Christendom and it refers to God as the “lifter up of our heads”.
The phrase suggests that situations and circumstances have kept our heads bowed; that we have become shackled by failure, guilt and lethargy but that the love of God liberates us and then causes a lifting up. It is almost a safe bet to believe that most adults live in a prison of some sort; our minds have trapped us in little prisons and whether we acknowledge it or not, we only have limited periods of freedom. Our mind uses the past or even the idea of the unknown to trap us and even the strongest of us can’t quite live out in the open.
A recent conversation got me thinking about true freedom. Who is free and at what price? Lately I have come to the conclusion that we all have places in our minds where no one can reach. We have dark rooms, where we chain our fears, our guilt and our shame.
Christianity offers a blanket amnesty with a promise of God to wipe our slates clean; to forgive and forget. Our fellow man on the other hand offers no such blanket; the prison of our minds is reinforced by the sure damnation that comes from our fellow man.
As flawed as we all are; we are very judgemental; our first instinct is always judgement followed by swift condemnation. The conscience, that in-built moral barometer convicts us time and time again of all our foibles and keeps us on the straight and narrow but it has a memory that just won’t quit.
Even if God forgives us most of us can’t completely forgive ourselves. The first stone throw in our condemnation is thrown by the hand under our hearts; we won’t forgive ourselves so how do we expect others to?
The true reality is that life really is short; there is not enough time to waste on floor gazing when we should be star gazing. I am not always proud of my choices but I try not to pass the blame for who I was to outside influences. The choices I have made are mine alone, regardless of any external or extenuating influence.
I don’t fake by penitence as I am not sorry for most of those choices. The stuff I regret are the ones I didn’t have the courage to do; being stupid when you are ignorant is excusable but being stupid when you know better is just plain stupid.
I believe in peace; Its important to make peace with the past, with the consequences of our actions and accept the reality we have. True freedom begins when we have enough self love to let go of the past; we can live out in the open when we are loved enough to receive acceptance by those who love and matter to us.
If I had to describe the past few months I would say there have been periods where my head was anything but lifted. Situations and circumstances have had me questioning my choices and that in itself is a prison. By all accounts times are hard; we all are feeling the pinch but I wonder if anyone feels as stifled by this environment as I sometimes do?
I have noticed that I have felt a more complete sense of liberty when I am out of the country lately and my emotional pressure gauge is either faulty or my spirit is getting broken. I think prison, the emotional variety is the cage built by the shame implied or bestowed by those we are emotionally invested in. I have never understood the need to explain the past or compensate for them to those who weren’t even a factor back then!
The world lives in a closet, truth is freedom but since we are never fully truthful, we are not truly free. Our heads are bowed not by our past but by the condemnation to be found in the present. The present condemns us because we care; we want to rate high in the esteem of our loved ones and in the society.
Not caring apparently is unnatural. I would someday love to taste freedom in all its ramifications. To voice my opinions without fear of reprimand, condemnation or even attack; to be free from judgement and gaze not at the floor but at the stars. That would be freedom; right out in the open.