Monday, September 6, 2010

I Called To

I called to the Lord from my narrow prison, and He answered me in the freedom of space.

- Psalm 118:5

* * *

I first encountered this passage years and years ago. I was working for a caterer who had a contract with the Army to provide lunches to recruits being shipped off to boot camp. I served up mucilage macaroni and cheese, grey hamburgers cooked five hours earlier and sheet cake spread thin with watery frosting. At the Army transport center where I set up my tables each week there were always a few well-meaning church ladies passing out pocket sized New Testaments that included all the Psalms. I was given one and have it to this day.

I had never spent any time with the Bible, or the Pslams, but decided I would read through all the Psalms. Somehow I choked it all down. I flitted from one to the next, could only read a few at a time, became bored with the tedious repetitions, and finally slept through the last of it. It all sounded like ass-kissing and kvetching and it sailed over me without a hitch.

It would take another twenty years for it to reappear, like a comet returning, giving me a another chance to listen to what was being said. This line from Psalm 118 appears on page 89 of my copy of Man's Search For Meaning. It is the one sentence on Viktor Frankl's lips as he falls to his knees after the camp where he has been enslaved, starved and brought to the brink of death has been liberated.

After the fifth or so reading I understood what it meant.

* * *

The Exodus story of deliverance from slavery and Frankl's story of deliverance from evil echo and reverberate around one another - each adding a depth to the other. But because of how Frankl lived, the work he engaged himself in, another dimension is added: liberation from despair.

What better description of a fucked life than that of a narrow prison? Everything is circumscribed, everything prescribed with no allowance made for you. But this narrow prison is one entirely made by your own hand. You are Pharaoh, the SS, your own capo because you keep waiting for life to conform to your expectations. Life has no interest in you or your expectations, rather it must be you who has an interest in Life and its successive demands.

Is your prison so well guarded you cannot escape? I was trapped in a futile marriage, hemmed in on all sides by money, a sense of obligation, a sense of ineptitude, fear and I suffered for years to no purpose. In the midst of the divorce I understood that the prison I had imagined had always been unlocked, yet I waited for the walls to crash down around me before I walked out into the freedom of space.

The moment you choose to be free you are. The moment you choose freedom you are then fully responsible for your life - all of it, no part left out.

You are your answer.

There are enough physical prisons in this world, relieve yourself of the one in your mind.