28 May 2017

Pacing The Cage

“The truth is like a lion; you don’t need to defend it.  Let it loose; it will defend itself.” – Augustine of Hippo

Perhaps we live in troubled times, and perhaps things are just as they’ve always been and I’m just noticing more.  I don’t know which is the case, but I do know that most days I find myself baffled, bewildered, beat down, bedraggled, and overwhelmed with sorrow at all that I see in the news and in the world around me. The violence and sadness that top the news feed, as well as the loss of incredible musicians in the past two weeks, and so many more this past year, combined with the loss of dear friends to depression, disease, and simply old age and bodies wearing out, have me often considering the point of this mortal coil.  Musicians and poets can give words to our emotions when we have none to give.  As a musician myself, I have found that sometimes only music can suffice when feelings are raw and there is no way to describe what is welling up inside of me.  Bruce Cockburn is one of my most favorite singer/songwriters.  He has a way of weaving poetry, music, and a powerful message into beautiful soundscapes that easily capture me and draw me in.  The title of this post, as well as the subtitle of this blog, are both taken from titles of Bruce songs.  His song “Pacing The Cage” (song and lyrics below) adequately describe where I find myself of late; pensive and wondering how to bring light into such darkness.


We all have a tendency to hide from one another and often we put forward a false self to the rest of the world.  This false self is usually the person whom we believe others or the Divine desires us to be, and is formed by all kinds of experiences and influences, good and bad.This is truly the original sin in the Judeo-Christian story of Adam & Eve.  It often gets whittled down to being all about disobedience, but when we see the truth that is being conveyed in the story, this was clearly not the main issue.  (Although, being able to cite disobedience as the original sin is quite convenient for those who wish to use power, authority, and shame to control others and force them into obedience…especially  to the illusion of an  authoritarian “god” who requires such things…)  Adam and Eve hid because they were afraid.  Fear and hiding.  Hiding out of fear.  There it is.  We hide our true selves because we are afraid of being known.  We are afraid of being known because we are afraid of being rejected; by God or by other people.  In many cases this is a valid fear, because we are frail creatures and can be hurt easily, and being hurt or rejected only makes us want to crawl further into our shell and put up the walls that we believe keep us safe.  Yet, over time, those walls can become a cage that imprisons us and holds us back from truly loving, and even more so of being truly loved, and we ultimately find ourselves pacing within, in a desperate attempt to make sense of it all and genuinely longing to be truly free.  The real tragedy is that, unless we wake up to the truth – that we are free and that the Divine loves us just as we are – we become both the prisoner and the jail-keeper of our own cell.  We hold the keys to our own locks, and as Bob Marley said, until we “free ourselves from mental slavery”, we are doomed to pace the cage of our own making.  As a wise man once said in Ecclesiastes, “God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated.”

We are made of shadow and light AND we are loved and free.  The truth is actually quite simple, but we have made it very complicated.  We take things out of context and use them to suit our own narrative, and I think this is what troubles me most, and often has me pacing my cage.  Radical religion is concerned with defending itself and easily can cross a line from defending to actively attacking others who do not share the same belief.  Turn on the news and you will see the result of this played out all over the world.  However, ironically, as the quote at the beginning of this post states so well, if something is true, it will defend itself.  All of the mystics of the great religions of the world seem to understand this, and all often speak of the same truth; that the Divine is both love itself and IN love with us, and ultimately desires communion with us…while still leaving us completely and utterly free to choose that love and communion.  There is no requirement or expectation; there is only becoming.  Unfortunately for us, many religions prefer rather to take this distilled and potent truth and dilute it into something else; something that offers the easy road of legalism and false legitimacy and the orgasmic feeling of belonging to the “right” club or the “right” religion.  Fr. Richard Rohr’s post from last July speaks to this very well, and says a lot of what I’m driving at with this post.  In order to be whole, we must at some point stop hiding, and “be not afraid” to be ourselves.  The days are dark but the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

We can pace the cage of our own frustration and anger and longing, or we can let loose the lion of truth within, even at great cost, and let the chips fall where they may…and love everyone no matter what their current state…because Love itself leaves no other option.



by: Bruce Cockburn

Sunset is an angel weeping
Holding out a bloody sword
No matter how I squint I cannot
Make out what it’s pointing toward
Sometimes you feel like you’ve lived too long
Days drip slowly on the page
You catch yourself
Pacing the cage

I’ve proven who I am so many times
The magnetic strip’s worn thin
And each time I was someone else
And every one was taken in
Hours chatter in high places
Stir up eddies in the dust of rage
Set me to pacing the cage

I never knew what you all wanted
So I gave you everything
All that I could pillage
All the spells that I could sing
It’s as if the thing were written
In the constitution of the age
Sooner or later you’ll wind up
Pacing the cage

Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can’t see what’s round the bend
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend
Today these eyes scan bleached-out land
For the coming of the outbound stage
Pacing the cage
Pacing the cage

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Posted 28 May, 2017 by Luke Beecham in category "General

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