Sunday, July 18, 2010


My favorite book is Maya Angelou's "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings." The reasons are myriad but one is because I, indeed, do know why the caged bird sings so I can relate.

Regardless of the circumstances one finds oneself in, there's a drive within us to express ourselves, our most true essences, our souls. Something within us yearns to be free, even if we are caged by demands of others or by bars we have installed ourselves. Sometimes we don't know if the bars we've put up are to keep others out or ourselves in. The effect is the same, but some are easier to get past than others.

We may not all be able to sojurn to foreign lands to find the bit of ourselves that needs to be let free like Elizabeth Gilbert did, but we all travel in our own ways. It may only be out to the garden, a walk in the neighborhood, or a night spent in quiet reflection, but we can all journey to our inner selves where we find the questions we need.

I've come to believe life is much more about the questions than the answers. The answers come easy. We almost always know them even before we ask the questions. But asking that question, when the answer we already know but don't want comfirmed is hanging out there unspoken, is difficult. But essential.

Not asking the question is yet another cage. And no matter how we decorate it, a cage keeps up apart from the truth, the others, the best.

Cages come in all shapes and sizes. What others believe about us, what we think about ourselves, and the roles we play can all be cages. Some roles we seek and some are thrust upon us. Despite their unexpected nature we sometimes embrace them and settle the mantle of matyrdom squarely on our shoulders.

Sometimes the cage is a real or perceived lack of time, motivation or interest. We speak words that build prison walls. And eventually learned helplessness takes over and we won't leave even when the door is opened because the cage has become comfortable. It's all we know. We can no longer dream of a world beyond the bars. So we live our lives in this small space, keeping ourselves within its confines.

But for some, breaking open the cage is all they can think about. They're always pushing and pulling, and trying something new. They are relentless. And when there's the slightest movement, a tiny glimmer of light, they redouble their efforts, certain they can gain their freedom.

They know why the caged bird sings, but it's not the only song they want to hear.


sigerson said...

My Significant Other, a Christian, believes in Hell, but feels it is of a person's own making, that they choose to be there and can walk out through the open door at any time.

Very eloquent, Patsy. You're quite the writer and the thinker.

Patsy Terrell said...

You are very kind.

The concept of learned helplessness has stayed with me since I first heard of it. It's an amazing bit of nature.