I’ve always felt like an outsider.
Like I don’t belong.
Never being the guy on the main stage. Always in the background. I’ve never wanted to be the star, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be the hero. Looking around me, I would say that I have got it pretty good. A beautiful wife. A house. Two cars in the garage. Two great dogs.
But I want more.
Not more stuff. I want to have less things. I want to sell my house. I want when I sell my house that I can pack up all our belongings into our two cars and just drive away.
It is not that I have never struggled with “big questions”. I have. And I found answers. But the thing that matters to me is not the “answer”, but the “equation”. Life is like a math problem where you have to show your work. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
I had this idea for a story. It is a future setting with a prison with no guards. We have cameras watching. This is sounding much like everything that has already been done. Orwell’s 1984. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. George Lucas’s THX 1138.Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We. Rand’s Anthem. And the like…
The idea being that one day, one of the prisoners comes to a realization that they are only being obedient through their own volitional compliance. That they’ve never tested the doors, but have always assumed they were locked. They were told to wait until instructed to open them and always heard the electrical signal that sounded like they were being unlocked.
But he decided to test the door. It opened.
He didn’t have plans to escape. He never thought of what else he would do. He didn’t even realize he was trapped so to speak. After being imprisoned for so long he sorta forgot and just took the path of least resistance through compliance.
And now the possibility of freedom.
But freedom from what?
It was his choices that kept him there. And he now must choose what to do next. The choices never end. He was never a slave to choice. Then what was it? What were the chains? What were the shackles?
There was a sense of relief that they were removed, but it bothered him much that he could not describe what he was now free from. Not much has changed. He stood motionless in the section that connected all the prison cells.
And freedom to do what?
He has many thoughts now racing. Well go outside. But to go where? He has been here so long he forgot what it was like as a child. What did he used to do? What did he enjoy before?
Part of the trouble is that as a child he was always pushed to focus on his future. Do not enjoy the now. You have to study. You have to do. You have to become.
There was no freedom then.
Lost in this thought he starts to think about the others. Should he free his fellow prisoners? He looks up at the always watching camera. Dare he open another door?
It turns with ease.
“Come be free,” he shouts.
A deadpan stare is the only reply.
Again he goes to the next cell. “Be free,” he says.
“I am,” is the reply. He shakes his head in wonder. “This is not freedom. This is place is a prison. How can you say you are free?”
“I do what I want. I am free,” again is the reply.
Sure that this was going nowhere. Again he goes to a third door. “Come, be free,” he whispers and almost pleads.
The same blank stare as the first.
Before going on he stops again in the center of the room and eyes the camera. Was this part of something greater he knew not about? Why was he the only one wanted freedom, though unable to describe why and from what?
The more he thought about it, he realized they are there out of their own choice. The second one thought he wanted what he was doing and therefore thought himself already free. They refused to leave. They refuse to believe the door is unlocked. They say the must stay. That they have always done it this way…
This seems like rambling as I let my mind wander. Which reminds me of a poem by J.R.R. Tolkien:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
From this story I feel that we’ve learned a few things. One) I’m not much of a creative writer per se. Two) I’ve still have “big questions”. Three) The quest continues.
I’m not sure I need to be a star. I don’t think I am hanging on. I am always working on feeling like I belong. But I may always be an outsider… “For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow”.
P.S. Want more inspirational stories on creating a path to freedom?
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