It’s as if the thing were written in the constitution of the age:
Sooner or later you’ll wind up pacing the cage.
– Bruce Cockburn, “Pacing the Cage”
“Insanity,” said Albert Einstein or Gertrude Stein or maybe Albert’s cousin, Zweistein – who knows? – “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” You could make a case that the American public is insane by electing the same goofballs to Congress year after year expecting different results. Or how about attending the same brain-and-spirit-numbing routine week after week? Or maybe sticking to that tasteless and expensive diet your health-nut friend guaranteed would trim off the pounds and get you the right mate?
Whatever it is, we’ve each been here-and-there guilty of that brand of insanity.
Stereotypy is a repetitive animal behavior. An abnormal-repetitive animal behavior. An abnormal-repetitive-in-a-confined-situation animal behavior. An abnormal-repetitive-in-a-confined-and-aberrant-situation animal behavior. According to the Stanford Medical Dictionary, stereotypy in animals can consist of circling, looping and route tracing, and… pacing. You’ve seen it in zoos and gerbil cages. You’ve seen it in aquariums and dog kennels. You’ve seen it in pet stores and… maybe in your own home.
The Stanford Medicos suggest that animal stereotypies are equivalent in some ways with human stereotypies. In other words, we two-leggeds often do some pacing ourselves. And when do we pace? Often when we feel ourselves in-a-confined-and-aberrant situation.
Don’t take too long living in this big-old-crazy world to find ourselves suddenly and unexpectedly plopped in one cage or another. Cages of addiction, cages of anger. Cages of control or confusion. Cages of property, propriety or poverty. And we all live in cages of education, religion, government, ethnicity or indifference. So many cages; so little time. And we often find ourselves literally or figuratively – or even both – pacing the cage. Abnormal-repetitive-in-a-confined-situation animal behavior. We am animals, you know.
The good news is, we all spend time pacing the cage. The bad news is, we all spend time pacing the cage. No matter how many religious or spiritual teachers, books and videos show you “guaranteed” ways to be free – be it salvation, peace-of-mind, unattachment, nirvana or drugs – chances are, Sweetcakes, you gonna be pacing one cage or another, at one time or another, at one place or another all through this life, no matter what.
But, don’t despair, Lil’Buckaroo! Remember that old Yin/Yang? The Tao Te Ching teaches that without up, there can’t be down. Without light, there can’t be dark. Without in, there can’t be out. And without cages, there can’t be freedom. We would never understand freedom without cages, nor would cages mean a thing without freedom. They each teach us about the other. And the Hebrew/Christian scriptures are all about folks getting trapped in cages and how that ol’ faith thing can sometimes open the doors.
We’ll be using all three sets of scriptures during this Via Negativa Quarter. And for those of you woosies who don’t like the Via Negativa, just remember that without the Negativa, we’d never have the Positiva. And if you can’t remember that, just suck it up.