Life is a prison and everybody is an inmate

I was at work today and thinking of fate.

Fate manifests itself in a myriad ways. Some people are born with a deficit of luck, but through either hard work or a reversal of fortunes, make it big. And some other people, born with all the right pedigree, family connections, power, wealth, and health, suffer a strange twist that sends them to prison, their health goes down the drain, their money evaporates, family and friends disappear and are nowhere to be seen.

I was thinking about how some people suffer miscarriages of justice and are unjustly condemned to prison by overzealous prosecutors or through their own counsel’s lackadaisical legal services. In passing, this is exactly why I am against the death penalty. I would not condemn an innocent to save a thousand victims. I hold each life sacred and sending an innocent person to death is abhorrent to me.

Some people linger in prison for no good reason except for having trusted a “just” system that “couldn’t send an innocent behind bars,” yet there they are. And somehow, from behind all these strange disconnected thoughts, one linear idea emerged. It was almost as if I had an epiphany.

The Thinker of Cernavoda , 4.5 inches tall, terracotta, 5250-4500 BCE, from between the River Danube and the Black Sea.

I realized that in truth nobody really is free. Not even inside our own minds. We are all prisoners, inmates of our conscience. For most of our lives, we are doomed to labour under false pretenses. We spend countless years pondering the absolute, to stare into the nietzschean abyss, so to speak.

And what do we have to show for it? Nothing but sorrow, silence, and tears. We deludedly assume that because we are not incarcerated, by process of elimination, that makes us free. Au contraire, that makes us less free, since any delusion is a lie, and a lie is a prison of our own design.

Life is a prison and we are all inmates. We are condemned to go through the daily motions associated to healthy living, to being social animals, or just mere motions that we must undertake to make sure we checked off yet another day on the calendar of our impending doom.

The Morning of Sedgemoor, oil painting on canvas by Edgar Bundy – (1905).
The Battle of Sedgemoor (6 July 1685) was the last battle fought by the Catholic rebels of  James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of King Charles II of England. The Duke was soundly defeated by the Royal troops of King James II. Lord Monmouth was captured on 8 July 1685, sentenced to death and beheaded a week later. Sic transit gloria mundi!

For what is life if not a trepidating adventure, whose outcome has already been long written and whose author is unknown. Rafael Sabatini, the author of Captain Blood and other countless novels, found the right words to describe the human condition. His character, Peter Blood, bachelor of medicine, describing the people mindlessly rushing to support the hopeless Monmouth Rebellion of 1685 against King James II of England, said it best.

Yet Peter Blood, who was not only able to bear arms, but trained and skilled in their use, who was certainly no coward, and a papist only when it suited him, tended his geraniums and smoked his pipe on that warm July evening as indifferently as if nothing were afoot. One other thing he did. He flung after those war-fevered enthusiasts a line of Horace—a poet for whose work he had early conceived an inordinate affection:

“Quo, quo, scelesti, ruitis?” – Where, o where are you rushing, madmen?

(Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini)
Captain Blood played by Errol Flynn – (1935).

So, in a sense nobody escapes life unscathed. Not the wicked, not the righteous, not the moral, and not the guilty. We are all condemned by that great judge who sits in judgment over all of us and whose verdicts have no appeal. Or to quote Peter Blood who was found unjustly guilty after the said Rebellion for having provided medical care to rebel soldiers:

The verdict found the three prisoners guilty. Peter Blood looked round the scarlet-hung court. For an instant that foam of white faces seemed to heave before him. Then he was himself again, and a voice was asking him what he had to say for himself, why sentence of death should not be passed upon him, being convicted of high treason.

He laughed, and his laugh jarred uncannily upon the deathly stillness of the court. It was all so grotesque, such a mockery of justice administered by that wistful-eyed jack-pudding in scarlet, who was himself a mockery—the venal instrument of a brutally spiteful and vindictive king. His laughter shocked the austerity of that same jack-pudding.

“Do you laugh, sirrah, with the rope about your neck, upon the very threshold of that eternity you are so suddenly to enter into?”

And then Blood took his revenge.

“Faith, it’s in better case I am for mirth than your lordship. For I have this to say before you deliver judgment. Your lordship sees me—an innocent man whose only offence is that I practised charity—with a halter round my neck. Your lordship, being the justiciar, speaks with knowledge of what is to come to me. I, being a physician, may speak with knowledge of what is to come to your lordship. And I tell you that I would not now change places with you—that I would not exchange this halter that you fling about my neck for the stone that you carry in your body. The death to which you may doom me is a light pleasantry by contrast with the death to which your lordship has been doomed by that Great Judge with whose name your lordship makes so free.

The Lord Chief Justice sat stiffly upright, his face ashen, his lips twitching, and whilst you might have counted ten there was no sound in that paralyzed court after Peter Blood had finished speaking. All those who knew Lord Jeffreys regarded this as the lull before the storm, and braced themselves for the explosion. But none came.

(Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini)

One thought on “Life is a prison and everybody is an inmate

  1. Stop being a pussy! 🙂 If you want to have a fully charged life, you have to start looking forward to things again.
    You have to get excited about tomorrow again.
    You have to see your life developing again.

    You have to set yourself on a path where you’re progressing every day. You have to know tomorrow will be better than it was today, and that tomorrow you’ll become more of who you know you can become. You have to know that tomorrow—by your choices, disciplines and habits—you’re going to evolve into your highest self.

    That is the path of the charged life, the constant engagement of the best within us, pushing ourselves with purpose, progress and hope to become our highest selves. That’s the magic. That’s what life should feel like. That’s what we all deserve. So maybe we should start by challenging ourselves just a little more.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s