I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!
I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting—
I know why he beats his wing!
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!
Paul Laurence Dunbar (from Lyrics of the Hearthside, 1899)
This morning I sat at my desk to begin work, and saw a soaring bird through my window. Wings spread, majestic, floating with the currents as they blew him on a gray-blue sky. It was beautiful, and it got me thinking about freedom.
I’m reading a book now called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s about how to overcome Resistance (ie, your own self-doubt and self-sabotage) in order to create art and live “your unlived life.”
He says, “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance. ….Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. …it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius. …everyone who creates operates from this sacramental center. It is our soul’s seat, the vessel that holds our being-in-potential, our star’s beacon and Polaris.”
I’ve spent so. much. time. (as I’m sure you have, too) doing things I *HAVE* to do because someone else told me I *HAD* to do them. But, do we really? While we’re living our daily lives, our unlived lives are beating at the door of our psyche, flapping their wings against the bars, dying to get out and [insert your dream here] — travel, paint, be a makeup artist, volunteer in Uganda (does Uganda need volunteers?) … you get the picture.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO if you threw off the shackles of your life and went on an adventure? Just for a month. Imagine it … your kids wouldn’t be affected, you’d still have a job when you got home, you had an unlimited budget. What would you do??
The thought should scare you – it’s okay! Pressfield calls that the Resistance that keeps us where we are. If you’re scared, if you are – aha, resisting the idea because of all your very well justified reasons – then you know it’s the unlived life you’re missing.
They tell us we’re only allowed to have big dreams when we’re in Kindergarten talking about what we want to be when we grow up. But if someone asked the older, wiser you today, would you know the answer? And would you have the courage to go after it?