Imagine a story about someone who is trapped in some infernal prison. It’s not a prison with walls, necessarily, but is instead a prison of the mind, perhaps, and that person is trying to get messages out, calling—begging—for help to get free. But the messages are “coded”. The person is allowed to communicate with the outside world, but the jailer is watching and reading all outgoing correspondence and doesn’t want the person to receive any help, even if there is anyone out there who might help him—which is not at all clear.
So, the prisoner is forced to send out these coded messages, without a code key, in hopes that people will recognize them as what they are—as attempts to beg for help. But every response the resident gets simply makes clear that the others outside don’t get it. They just see the messages as stories, as hypotheticals, as songs…whatever. They’re not getting the message. He’s had to be too subtle, and the message is not getting across because he’s had to be too subtle.
Now, take a step back—or perhaps take a step forward, or a step inward—and we realize this story is not actually a story of a person imprisoned by someone else, but that the person who imprisons him is himself. He hates himself too much to think that he deserves help, and he hates the prospect of openly asking for help, feeling that he has no right to help from anyone—and so it is he himself who is keeping himself in prison—he himself who is forcing himself to send out only coded messages in a subtle way, and he himself who is responsible for just how much people don’t get the point of his requests for help. Or perhaps they simply agree that he does not deserve to receive help, the prisoner and the one who imprisons him, both of whom are the same person.
People grow more and more resigned—or gleeful or whatever—knowing that the prisoner will never escape, that no one will ever come to help, that there is only one way out, and in the long run, that will be the way he must take, to the horror or perhaps to the glee of those in the outside world.
Now, imagine that this isn’t the story at all, but is something happening in the real world, at this time, in the present moment, as we speak, as we write, as we read. Is such a thing possible?
Will the prisoner ever receive the help that he needs to escape? Because it is not possible for him to escape on his own.
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