For many years of my life I use to squawk about wanting freedom. Interestingly when it was offered to me I discovered that I was afraid of it. I do not believe that I am unique in this kind of thinking and behaviour. When I look back at much of my life what I lacked was consistent courage. I could build myself up and muster my will for so long, but it never seemed to last very long, eventually I collapse in on myself once again. Then I found something that sustained me. I found that reality that is greater than all and yet present in each, this gave me faith in life it self and this gave me the courage to live. To me this is what faith is all about, , finding the courage to live openly and with integrity.
Below are three pieces of writing that speak of what I believe I am talking about here. The first was shared by a friend and colleague Rev Bill Dalinson in his book “Concentration and Compassion: More Stories from the World’s Sirirtual Traditions”. It is “The Story of the Caged Parrot” The second is a very famous quote by Marrianne Willaimson which is often wrongly attributed to Nelson Mandella (it does sound like something he would say, but didn’t). They do say be careful what you read and check your sources (that includes this blog by the way. The final piece is something I wrote while training for the ministry. I had been looking at the Psalms and so attempted some creative writing in the style and rhythm of a psalm.
The Caged Parrot
While travelling alone through some rough terrain, a man called Mitali stayed the night in a wayside inn. Tired from his journey, he went to bed and was on the point of falling asleep when he heard a voice calling, Freedom! Freedom! I want to be free!” from the courtyard below his window.
“Someone must be trapped nearby, “ thought Mitali. “I’ll go see if I can help”
He descended to the courtyard and looked around, but he could see nobody. Thinking he must have imagined the voice, he was about to go back in the room when he heard it again: “Freedom! Freedom! I want to be free!” but it wasn’t coming from a person; it was coming from a parrot sitting in a golden cage.
“How cruel”, thought Mitali. “no bird should be imprisoned like that”. He walked over to the cage and opened the door. “off you go!” he said to the bird. “You can go free now”
The parrot sat on its perch, calling out “Freedom! Freedom! I want to be free”, but it didn’t move. Mitali put his hand in the cage, but the parrot cowered away, all the while calling for freedom but making no move towards the open door.
Gently taking hold of the parrot, Mitali tried to drag it through the caged door, but the parrot resisted mightily, pecking at his would-be liberator’s hand until the blood flowed copiously. Undaunted by the pain, Mitali finally released the bird and threw it up in the air. “Your free now my friend. Go off and enjoy your liberty!” The parrot flew off, and was soon lost to sight in the darkness of the moonless night.
Feeling very pleased with himself, Mitali went to bed. “Captivity is wrong for man or beast,” he thought. “Birds should be free to fly; they shouldn’t be forced to sit in cages for the entertainment of human beings. At least I’ve helped one creature to escape to freedom.”
He slept very soundly that night.
With the dawn he awoke, and he smiled as he remembered his good deed of a few hours before. But then... ... ... he heard the voice once more. “Freedom! Freedom! I want to be free!” “The parrot hasn’t gone very far,” he thought. “He must have perched on a nearby tree or rock. Perhaps he is sitting on the roof of the inn.”
Mitali went down to the courtyard to have a look. But the parrot wasn’t perched on the roof of the building. Nor was he on a nearby tree, or on a rock. He was back in the cage, shouting for freedom, and the cage door was open. “Our Greatest Fear”
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
A Twenty First Century Psalm
By Danny Crosby
I am bound, hopelessly trapped, by a self imposed crisis.
Tied down, vulnerable and constrained, in this reality I have created.
My eyes are closed, my mind is shut, I touch nothing.
I see darker than darkness, thoughts emptier than emptiness, feelings numbed beyond numbness.
Why have you that abandoned me in this lonely exile?
For what reason have I been left to face life all alone?
The world is frightening, I am awed by its enormity, and it offers too many potentials.
It is terrifying, I am overwhelmed by its immensity, and there is so much to choose from.
Crowds of faceless people, deafening in the silence, moving in endless circles.
One of the millions, one of the voiceless, walking the treadmill to nowhere.
God, how do I break from the chains of life?
Wise One, is there release from the slavery of reality?
The way to freedom, is the way of courage, retorts the Source of All.
The path of liberation, is path of endeavour, answers the Divine Mystery.
Can you hear my call, oh child of creation, are you tuned into this frequency?
Have you seen my words, human reality, or are you distracted by another channel?
Real Freedom is possessed by every one of you, listen to its call.
Self liberation shines out from within, so be its flaming torch.