6.6.07

Behind the Bars

A friend of mine is in prison. I write to wish him well and ask how life is on the other side. He tells me the four walls closed up on him a long time ago and he can’t remember when he stopped dreaming of life outside. He got transferred from Kansas to South Dakota, and the only change is how close the bathroom is to his cell—that and the view through the bars. In group session, he shares how afraid he is of not making it—of not having enough to carry on. Contentment comes hard, and sometimes it’s enough to live from self-indulgence to self-indulgence, limited as they come.

A radio program on NPT talks about a new book call Richistan and about life on the other side.. The author writes about the woes of the wealthy and the struggles of the successful (deca-millionaires)—how the value closed in on them a long time ago and they can’t remember when they last dreamed of happiness. A move from summer home to winter lodge offers temporary reprieve but even then the fear that bars aren’t thick enough: to keep out those set upon their demise. In group session, they share how afraid they are of not making it—of not having enough to retire. Contentment comes hard, and sometimes it’s enough to live from self-indulgence to self-indulgence, excessive as they come.

I sit at my desk, tapping away the tune of a half-remember song wondering about life on the other side: I pay my bills and own my car, but the walls of my longing long since closed in on me and I can’t remember when all my dreams were linked somehow to money. It’s a prison of my own making, bound by fear—while in the group confessional of my varying personalities I confess that I’m not going to make it—there isn’t enough in this world to fill me up. Contentment is fleeting and it’s never enough to live from self-indulgence to self-indulgence.

And my friend hopes for a little more. And the Ricistan among us hope for a little more. And I—I hope that I can find the way out of thinking a little more will set me free. Like a self-blinded Dwarf, I have chosen cunning instead of belief such that my only prison is in my mind; yet I am in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that I cannot be taken out. (CS Lewis, The Last Battle).

“The outside isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” I write my imprisoned friend, probably lying on the floor to get a new perspective on an old view from his cell. “Our human struggle is mutual: Contentment. We both struggle against the temptation to self-satisfaction, discontent with the offerings of a Savior, who died for the sins He now watches me commit.”

“Yes,” I write, “I have more options for self-satisfaction than you, but more isn’t more when it makes less and less of a man than he was intended to be.”