Today I realized a
profound thing while sitting in my cell contemplating my life and
the situation that I find myself in. This profundity went through
me like a bolt of lightening. I felt I had stumbled upon a great
treasure and wanted to shout for joy. My find was this: the Journey
of life is what really matters!
In my cell I have numerous books by a variety
of authors that cover a multitude of different outlooks on life.
I have a book on the Tibetan Buddhist forms of meditation. I have
several Christian daily devotionals. I even have a book on a Catholic
priest named Father Srseny who suffered in the Russian Siberian
"death" camps. A diverse group to be sure. But the one
thing that they all agree on is the fact that life's Journey and
how you approach it is the key to finding your place and happiness
in our ever-changing world.
Jesus said He was the way; Buddha said to follow
the path; Einstein said we are on a road of time, always moving
and forever changing. Is it any wonder that the journey of our lives
should be the key to opening up ourselves?
Recently I have experienced depression like
I have never felt before. It wrapped around me like a wet wool blanket
and threatened to smother me. I laid around without any energy whatsoever
and thought that I had come to the end of having any meaning or
hope for a future in my life--here I was locked up in a maximum security
prison's "Inmate Management Unit" after my third escape
from prison. I had just received fifty years for that escape and
related crimes a few months before this and had already served twenty-four
years of my forty-two years on this planet behind bars. What could
possibly be any reason to further this waste of a life?
Luckily for me I stopped long enough in my self-pity
to pen a letter to the Human Kindness Foundation. I had a few of
the books that they offer, and since they dealt with prisoners and
seemed to genuinely care about people, I wrote them a letter. Shortly
a reply came back, not one I expected, but one that put me to thinking.
From that has come the essence of this article. The reply was from
a man named Arjun, who had spent over two decades in prison and
who could definitely relate to my position. In this letter he said,
"Thank God that you feel all of your present guilt and shame."
He went on to say that I had a great opportunity to do some deep
soul purging. What I really wanted was a hug and someone to tell
me it was all right. What I got was what I needed, and that was
someone telling me that I needed to face my pain, face my guilt,
face my demons, and see that in me which needed changing. That is
what the path, the way and time give to us--a chance to see our nature
and to change in ourselves those things that keep us from continuing
on the Journey as a whole and healthy being.
I have also realized that along with the Journey
we must reach out to others. Reaching out to others is essential
to staying on the right path along the Journey.
For the entire span of my life, forty-two-years,
I have been very selfish and self-centered. If something wasn't
about me, I wasn't interested in it. If someone wasn't always praising
my abilities or my personal achievements, I wasn't interested in
Those are hard things to realize about yourself
and even harder to do something about, because you're constantly
going against that little voice in your head that keeps whispering
to you, "You're all that matters, you're all that's important."
In fact, what's important is going beyond yourself, and caring about
and loving the persons you meet along the way. Mary Cholmondeley
writes in the book "Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul":
Every day I live I am more convinced that the
waste of life lies in the love we have not given, the power we have
not used, the selfish prudence that will risk nothing and which,
shirking pain, misses happiness as well.
I agree with her. Looking back on my own
life I see all the waste of my life, all the missed opportunities
to reach out to others and share love, and I weep. There is pain
in this realization: pain and resolve to start from this moment
and let not a single chance to reach out to others go by. It is
my firm belief that in doing so I will be opening myself up to all
the love and wisdom that exists on the Journey of life and healing
a multitude of hurts that I have caused others. There is freedom
in this knowledge, freedom that takes me beyond the bars set to
lock me in, freedom that lifts my heart in flight to travel along
the Journey that we all must take. This Journey can be self-centered
and useless, or we can take the higher road to love and appreciation
of others. Somehow with that thought I am no longer depressed, but
excited as I wonder about the beauty I'll be a part of, the things
I'll be able to share, and the joy I'll be able to bring.