“Yes Bartholomew, we are unjustly imprisoned here, but freedom has nothing to do with justice. Often, injustice is the greatest teacher—it forces us to acknowledge that absurdity cannot be overcome with reason. So, if one cannot defeat absurdity and must endure it, what is the purpose of knowing the truth, when all we get is pain?” -Intellectual Shaman
The prison was modern. It was designed with right angles, lots of right angles. The color was washed out, giving it the appearance of a dental office or a realtor’s headquarters. In gothic tradition, it was erected on an island, far away from low security prisons. When it was built, inmates numbered in the thousands. Now, nobody questioned, and the ferry made her passage alone.
On a sparkling summer day, two men were arrested. They were brothers. One was a bum; the other believed in more than just the streets. Bob spent time thinking. He thought so much, he wasn’t aware of his own thoughts, and the types of actions he took were so different from his peers, that he stood out, as if everyone in society was lying down.
There are two types, one who is actively trying, and the other who doesn’t know, and doesn’t care. Bob’s older brother was the bum; he didn’t know and he didn’t care, and he admired something in the younger. Bartholomew said the right things, but his inaction betrayed him. He could not bring himself to do. Bob did, and his doing was his undoing.
They spotted him and had him arrested. Then they picked up the older brother, possibly because of the potential influence he had on the younger.
“Do you know what you’ve done?” Bartholomew asked.
“Listen big brother, if no one pushes the boundaries, they don’t even know they are in prison. They do what they are told and their lives are comfortable. They never try to break out.”
“You always speak with abstracts. Why?”
“Because it requires thought, and most are incapable of that. They get offended by what they don’t have to think about.”
“Well, I’m offended that I’m on this boat with you. I prefer the street, and watching the people. I can tell the one who follows, but isn’t a follower. Why do you have to lead?”
“Big brother, I’m the same as you. I spend my time in a dark room. I spend my days alone. But I can’t stop myself. I can’t look at life, and just keep looking like you. No, the people in charge are not leaders, and the people who want to be in charge are not leaders. This idea comes from a place nobody knows. It’s authentic fire from the gut. It’s electricity that shocks people, if they grab onto it. People need that. Everything else puts them to sleep. Many climb on top of others, who give into their weight. I want to throw them off.”
“Well, now look where you got us.”
The island was monstrous in its simplicity. There were no guards. There was no escape. As the brothers neared the island, the warden waited for them. She was squat and conservative in her dress and mannerisms, but she was a ravening wolf with modern ideas without having thought about them. She was intelligent, but a non-thinking person, the most dangerous kind.
“You two are difficult,” she said. “We have two cells for you, and we’re not barbarous here. Because you are brothers, you can room next to each other. You will each have a TV, and the opportunity to exercise when it is granted.”
“What about books?” Bob asked.
“What do you need with those? That’s what we have TV for. You know, I’m watching the most thought-provoking series on Netflix. It has to do with underprivileged children in remote communities. They are learning ideas over 100 years old, so out of date, so backwards. That’s when history was ‘his story’, now it belongs to everyone, the way it should be. You boys are going to learn that. In fact, don’t think of this place as confinement. I will be your teacher. This is a school. You are going to get rid of all the wrong ideas.”
Time reveals everything, so prison is the place of great revealing. Bob walked on the shore, watching the waves, reading a book, it was the only required reading. The title was plain. Rules. What happens to rule breakers? Bob never intended to be that. Society made him that way. He looked at the ocean, at the distant horizon, promising what four walls could never give. As the days wore on into years, the brothers changed. Bartholomew’s face became soft, like a baby, and the warden took care of him. She gave him comforting cards for his birthday with quotes that read, “You are enough.” She even went as far as to dress provocatively, to tempt him with lust, so he might feel like a man. Her lurid black nylons ran into her straight skirt two inches above fingertip length. I guess if you’re the warden, you can break the rules, to captivate the prisoners. It’s lonely being a warden, and it’s the type of loneliness that can never be accompanied. Bob looked at what was happening to his brother.
“You are giving yourself over to her.”
“But we need her. I still think you should watch the latest episode on Netflix. It shows how wrong we were about history—how backwards we were in our thinking.”
Bob’s face went stony, just like his cell. “Big brother, we don’t have to settle for this; we can escape.”
“Where would we go? All we have is the open ocean.”
“Exactly; tomorrow morning I’m going to swim for it.”
“With the warden watching?”
“She won’t get into the water. It’s full of sharks and storms, remember? And the ferry doesn’t come for another two weeks. If she contacts the authorities, they won’t come.”
“Because I’ll be dead when they get here. The horizon promises salvation, it always has and it always will. It’s a falling off of the edge, and the edge is where I need to be, even if just for a moment.
At sunrise, the exercise hour came. And Bob walked to the beach with his brother. The warden was gazing at her progress through golden binoculars she took to the opera. She had succeeded as a teacher. Her two failing students were getting straight A’s. Then Bob jumped into the water.
“Wait; it isn’t safe!” She screamed.
Bob bobbed, and smiled, and waved. The horizon was waiting. The depths of freedom were there, the fathoms of the deep offered so much more than four walls. Wardens will never understand that.