A creature that hides and “withdraws into its shell,” is preparing a “way out.” This is true of the entire scale of metaphors, from the resurrection of a man in his grave, to the sudden outburst of one who has long been silent. If we remain at the heart of the image under consideration, we have the impression that, by staying in the motionlessness of its shell, the creature is preparing temporal explosions, not to say whirlwinds, of being.
“Yes,” Sanjay said. “I know I will be reborn, that there is no escape from you. I know my life well and I know that I have not found liberation. I will have to come back to you. But remember, when I die, I do not give up to you, I renounce the world. The world in which nothing is clear, where there is horror at every turn, I am sick of it. I know I will be reborn into it. Since you say you are my friend, I will ask you a question. Does it get better?
“The world is the world. It is you that makes the horror.”
“A fine way of saying that it gets worse. All right, I ask you another question. If I must be reborn, I prefer not to be aware, to be always divided against myself, to be a monster; I have no doubt cursed myself through my actions, but have I done enough so that I will be reborn as an animal?”
“Why do you think that life as animal is a curse? It is rather a privilege.”
Wherever I am, the world comes after me.
It offers me its busyness. It does not believe
that I do not want it. Now I understand
why the old poets of China went so far and high
into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.
― Mary Oliver, Why I Wake Early
Come, faeries, take me out of this dull house!
Let me have all the freedom I have lost;
Work when I will and idle when I will!
Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.
—W.B. Yeats, “The Land of Heart’s Desire,” 1894
Image: Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing. William Blake, 1786
Glory is largely a theatrical concept. There is no striving for glory without a vivid awareness of an audience… The desire to escape or camouflage their unsatisfactory selves develops in the frustrated a facility for pretending — for making a show — and also a readiness to identify themselves wholly with an imposing spectacle.
―Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements
But I must get back into the world of my creative mind: otherwise, in the world of pies & shin beef, I die. The great vampire cook extracts the nourishment & I grow fat on the corruption of matter, mere mindless matter. I must be lean & write & make worlds beside this to live in.
―Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, Monday, March 4, 1957
There were profound reasons for his attachment to the sea: he loved it because as a hardworking artist he needed rest, needed to escape from the demanding complexity of phenomena and lie hidden on the bosom of the simple and tremendous; because of a forbidden longing deep within him that ran quite contrary to his life’s task and was for that very reason seductive, a longing for the unarticulated and immeasurable, for eternity, for nothingness. To rest in the arms of perfection is the desire of any man intent upon creating excellence; and is not nothingness a form of perfection?
―Thomas Mann, Death in Venice
I wish I could do whatever I liked behind the curtain of “madness”. Then: I’d arrange flowers, all day long, I’d paint: pain, love and tenderness, I would laugh as much as I feel like at the stupidity of others, and they would all say: “Poor thing, she’s crazy!” (Above all I would laugh at my own stupidity.) I would build my world which, while I lived, would be in agreement with all the worlds. The day, or the hour, or the minute that I lived would be mine and everyone else’s – my madness would not be an escape from “reality”.”
When two people settle into a pattern of behavior it becomes increasingly difficult to change habits. In some cases, it may be that those very habits are all that connect us.
For some people, the simple perception that there is a pattern, a hint of a cage, will be enough to make them want to fly away. For others, the pattern becomes so familiar that they will endure all manner of tortures to stay within its boundaries. The cage metaphor constructs a trap that necessitates escape or acquiescence.
There are always multiple viewpoints in any situation. In Adjoining Cells, reading down the columns produces a different result than reading across. Does one perspective offer more hope than the other?
You can never really escape. It goes with you, wherever you go. Somehow, the prairie dust gets in your blood, and it flows through your veins until it becomes a part of you. The vast stretches of empty fields, the flat horizons of treeless plains. The simplicity of the people—good, earnest people. The way they talk and the way they live. The lack of occurrence, lack of attention, lack of everything. All that—it’s etched into your soul and it colors the way you see everything and it becomes a part of you. Eventually, Ms. Harper, when you leave, everything you experience outside of Kansas will be measured against all you know here. And none of it will make any sense.