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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Was Nelson Mandela Ever Not Free?

To my son:  Since you are in a state prison, I know you feel down at times.  But I would like to discuss with you another type of prison—spiritual prison.  One can be in this prison in or out of jail.  Likewise, one can be in state prison but still be spiritually free.  What are some of the characteristics of spiritual imprisonment?  At its most rudimentary level, it is manifested in a psychological defensiveness.  This defensiveness further leads to dishonesty and its consequential stress.  Every remark, every action needs to be calculated and viewed in the light of containment of a dark secret—the spiritually imprisoned do not feel good about themselves.  They feel their self-worth is under constant attack by the simple truth.  They sense their imperfections, but dare not admit them.  Sometimes they will be buttoned down and suspicious, others will express their frustration in anger.  In all cases, a degree of anger defines their lives. Anger joins defensiveness to shackle the human spirit.

Compare this to those who are spiritually free.  Rather than anger, their defining emotion is joy.  They are not afraid.  They have no difficulty in admitting mistakes and imperfections.  Honesty is their keynote.  They can laugh, even make fun of themselves.  Their sense of self-worth is beyond any threat by anyone.  Life about them flourishes.  Unlike the spiritually imprisoned, they focus on the task at hand or on others, not on themselves.  I have through the years seen your rising feelings of self-respect and worth.  Now is the time to call upon your inner resources.  Be a positive influence. Create something joyful and good today.  I know the box is confining and somewhat depressing—it was probably meant to be.  But let it also be your hermitage (your place apart).  Let it be your launch pad of spiritual liberty.

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.

--From: 238. To Althea from Prison
   by Richard Lovelace (1618–1658)

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