Tuesday, September 23, 2014

You Can Take The Man Out Of Prison...


On occasion and against my better judgement, I will get sucked into a television show or series. Usually they deal with cooking or apocalyptic survival, and this time is no different. I have found Utopia, a show that put 15 people on five acres and ordered them to build a new society and live there for a year. They are calling it a "social experiment," which seems to be the way to gain viewership these days, at least if they are trying to gain my viewership because I also got sucked into Love at First Sight, the one where two people are "matched by experts" and get married on the day they first clap eyes on each other (the "experts" did pretty well. Two of the three couples stayed married at the end of the experiment, but the one that did not went up in a fireball of mutual disgust and dislike bordering on hatred. But I digress).

Back to Utopia.

There's a dude on the show named Dave (well, not anymore, but that's neither here nor there.). He is a 32-year-old ex-con who was homeless prior to the show, and he began to throw tantrums nearly from the moment he arrived at the Utopia compound (eventually, he and a toothless dude from Kentucky founded the Utopian State of Freedom, a splinter group whose rules apparently include no rules except eat your weight in Oreos, chips, and ramen, and then sit around all day while everyone else gets the electricity and plumbing in order, you know, like adolescent boys. But again, I digress.).

So in the midst of all of his ramblings, Dave has brief periods of clarity where he says some very profound things (which makes me think he's a plant, but that's neither here nor there). He was talking about prison, this time in the context of an argument about food. Make no mistake - Dave may be billed as an "ex-con," but as of the limited slice of his life I witnessed (edited for content to keep the most titillating bits), there is no "ex" about this con. He has fully embraced the prison mentality and is trying to apply it to life outside, with predictable results (see comment above about Dave no longer being allowed in Utopia). In this conversation about food, Dave said that prison food (rice, beans, noodles) is the way to go. He said that he prefers prison because the rules are very clear.

And then goes on to insist the rules don't apply to him. Perhaps why he landed in prison to begin with? But I digress.

I was thinking about the prison rules we set for ourselves, the unbreakable, immovable walls we erect to structure our lives. These become a type of prison, functioning in the same way that prevented Dave from leaving prison even after he left prison. Almost like you can take the man out of prison, but you cannot take the prison out of a man.

I was thinking about how this becomes true as we get older, and wondering why we allow that to happen. When we are little, our parents insist we try new things (food, surroundings, sports, etc), even if we don't finish it we have to try. As adults, we stop trying things for the sake of trying them. With few exceptions, we find what we like, and THAT'S WHAT WE LIKE. We set these rules (This is how I am, this is what I do, this is what I am like...) and there is no deviation. And after awhile we begin to believe that all things should be this way, our way, and that's how crotchety old people are made (Get off my lawn, you kids!).

This is horribly limiting, living in prisons of our own creation. It is also horribly difficult, leaving the prison yard.

I think you just have to be determined to leave. I think you just have to scale the wall, let the concertina slash open your palms and arms if it must, and leap over to the other side. Even if it's only for a conjugal visit with the world outside the wall, every now and then it's important to be uncomfortable and challenged and new.

Which is hard if you are tired and just want things to be easy every now and again. But if you are tired from the way things are, maybe it's time to leap the fence. Maybe you are tired of the rules you set for yourself and an adventure would be just the thing.




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