by Alan Wartes
JAILBREAK! It’s a good bet that if you were to shout that at the top of your lungs in the exercise yard of the nearest penitentiary, you would instantly have the undivided attention of every inmate within earshot—and all of the guards, for that matter. You wouldn’t have to stop and explain what you meant by the word, because everyone on the inside is well aware of three important facts:
1. They are in jail.
2. They would really like to break out.
3. They know where the exits are.
In other words, people who know they are inmates are already tuned to the frequency of freedom and poised to leap when an opportunity comes along. But what would happen if you did the same thing at the food court in the mall? In your office building on Monday morning? At church next Sunday?
First, you’d certainly get a lot of blank stares. Then, after a moment, the shocked silence would give way to a kind of sarcastic amusement. Check out the nut job. How did he get in here? She really should take her medication.
The point is, it’s nearly impossible to inspire a jailbreak among people who a) aren’t aware of their imprisonment; b) don’t believe it is possible to live any other way; and c) wouldn’t know which way to run in any case.
This assessment isn’t meant to be condescending. The fact is, it applies to nearly everyone—and describes an engineered ignorance and a conditioned ambivalence. Like ordinary prisoners, we are all under the influence of a thousand “corrective” forces each and every day designed to mask the truth.
And it works—sort of.
True, we might be among those who would mindlessly scoff at someone shouting jailbreak at a Fourth of July parade, but deep down we know something is not right. For most of my life I have experienced the sensation of being caught in an elusive trap I can’t quite see. I feel it most clearly in moments of fear, defensiveness, anger, lack, guilt and hopelessness. In times of stillness and silence I can almost see past the bars on the windows and smell the fresh air of the free world beyond. In this, I am certain I’m not alone.
And it is nothing new. People have felt this way forever.
The Persian poet Hafiz wrote:
There is an invisible sun we long to see. The closer
you get to the present, the brighter and more
real it will become, even at midnight.
To the poor slaves of this world with their
eyes chained to coins and unforgiving, the
wondrousness of the firmament can cease to lift
your head and impact your manners.
What wing would not become depressed within
a snare, if that wing still has some spirit in it,
and all your instincts want to taste that
stratosphere above the known?
“Open the door or die. Unlock the cage or die,”
my master would say to me, when I was young.
(version by Daniel Ladinsky)
This deep hunger to be free is why stories of hope, connection, forgiveness, liberation and unconditional love are so powerful. These are messages carried on the breeze that offer proof of a better world out there. They stir the heartsick suspicion that this other place—this other way of being—is our true home.
And so it is! We are all free and rightful citizens of an abundant and joyful existence. A whole new way of living is ours for the imagining and the taking. There is no power able to stand between you and this fact.
Except for one: Your own thoughts and beliefs.
As you may have guessed already, these are your true jailers. These are the walls and the steel doors and guard towers and the men with rifles who patrol them. You and I are inmates in our own minds. While some others certainly exploit this fact and coerce us to stay put for reasons of their own, there is no force on earth capable of keeping us there—but us.
How do we imprison ourselves? In complex ways that boil down to a stubborn refusal to see three simple truths:
1. We are made to be free—and are free the moment we decide to be.
2. There is a new and excellent world waiting on the other side of that decision.
3. The exits are located everywhere. Anywhere. Pick one and go.
Until we see and believe these things, we are destined to die in captivity—because we will never venture to open the door. I, for one, am tired of the prison yard. Who is with me?
And we haven’t got a moment to lose. This jailbreak is the only way through the evolutionary crisis humanity has now entered. Our deeply flawed and constraining belief systems have led us to a moment of tremendous challenge—but even greater opportunity.
Gut-wrenching work and possibly scary times lie ahead. But if we find the courage to see differently, think differently, live differently—to unchain our eyes from “coins and unforgiving”—then nothing can stop us.
Welcome to the (r)evolution. Let’s get started.