Bert: You know, begging you pardon, but the one who my heart goes out for is your father. There he is in that cold, heartless bank day after day, hemmed in by mounds of cold, heartless money. I don’t like to see any living thing caged up.
Jane: Father? In a cage?
Bert: They makes cages in all sizes and shapes, you know. Bank-shaped some of ’em. Carpets and all.
~ Mary Poppins (1964)
This is not a sane way for people to live. You’ve always known this on some level. We have all always known this on some level.
It just doesn’t feel right. They herd us into classrooms where our minds are pressed into uniform shapes learning lessons which organize clean-cut, authorized thoughts into neat little boxes, then they herd us into cubicles where we turn gears to turn millionaires into billionaires. We go home and our minds are herded into advertising that makes us want to consume, news media that makes us believe our government is virtuous, and sitcoms where fake actors play out scenes which convince us that capitalism is working out perfectly fine. Try to get away from the phoniness by talking to a real person, and it turns out they’ve been processed through the same system. It feels pinched, like trying to wear an outfit that’s too small your entire life.
But the rewards of moving inside their painted lanes are so great, and the penalties for stepping outside them are so severe. The closest most ever come to authenticity is learning how to fake their way through society while secretly knowing it’s all bullshit. The marginalization, alienation and shame which can come with climbing over the rails of the slaughterhouse queue and running free are so difficult to live with that the herd mostly stays in line and keeps pouring its lifeblood into the fuel tank of the machine.
But we also can’t keep living like this. This machine we keep fueling by moving within the lines is filling the oceans with poison and filling the air with greenhouse gasses while killing the trees and driving humanity toward nuclear war. The lanes they have painted for us have formed a funnel into our own extinction.
So those lanes are necessarily going to have to become moot. All the societal structures which have been put in place to incentivize us toward producing and consuming and away from authenticity are going to have to fall away. Either because society collapses or because we changed our ways quickly and drastically enough to avert disaster, this march away from our own authenticity is about to end.
So why not start now? Why not take off that tight suit and stop acting out this masochistic charade?
The painted lanes they have us all marching within are past their sell-by date already. You are looking at a societal structure that is already dead, but hasn’t yet realized it. In a few years all these jobs and promotions and goals and fears and hopes and prayers will be completely null and meaningless one way or another, so why not take a chance on living out your own sacred, inner truth?
Everyone, at some point, gets a glimpse behind the veil. Maybe in childhood, maybe as a result of intense inner work or deep personal trauma, or maybe under the influence of psychedelics, everyone has seen the face of life underneath the veil of conceptual societal constructs. Most later convinced themselves that it was just silly childhood immaturity, just the stress, just the trauma, just the drugs, just this or just that, so they could forget about it and plug themselves back into the machine without too much cognitive dissonance.
But it was real. It is real. I swear to you on my life it is the most real thing that you have ever encountered. Everything else in your life might be varying degrees of fake, but that, that is real. And it can be lived.
So why not start now? Why wait until this world ends for better or for worse? Why not end your own world of painted lanes and beating drums right now? Stop marching inside their lines to the beat of their drum. Stop relating to life using dead ideas you were handed by other people for the convenience of the powerful. Start dancing your own dance in your own way.
I don’t know how to dance your authentic dance, so I can’t tell you how to do that. But you do. You know. Underneath all the societal impositions and expectations and pressures and demands and fear and aversion and painted lanes, you know. The instructions are written upon the core of your being, and if you get sincerely curious about them, they will show themselves to you bit by bit, as needed.
You have been told that it is dangerous to trust yourself to move through life ungoverned by rules and authority and social pressures, but it isn’t dangerous. Rules and authority and social pressures are what got us to this point, and now we’re staring into the abyss of extinction because of them. Rules and authority and social pressures are what’s dangerous. Living authentically is safety. Once you move past all the voices telling you you mustn’t and you shouldn’t, you will find that your own inner truth is so much wiser and healthier than society’s dead ideas about how we all ought to live.
Trust yourself to be bravely and defiantly true to the truth, clear-eyed rebel. I trust you. Life trusts you. You can trust yourself. Climb up over that slaughterhouse rail and go live a life uninhibited by the painted lanes of a servile society, for the good of our species and for the honor of your own majesty. Leave the cage they built for you in a ditch by the freeway and stride out boldly into uncharted lands beneath the open sky.
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