"The Expectations of Others" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
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He started receiving the bars for his cage at a very, very early age, each one given with love and concern forged with dreams and expectations.
He took them all because we all do. Later he understood why. He was told that like all healthy people, he needed a barrier, a kind of fence to ensure that he had a firm boundary for his ego to develop safe and secure, without gaps or holes, or else it would cause his ego to spill out and become undefined and blurred, precipitating ego confusion and mental illness. But as a child he didn't know this and accepted the bars without question because that's what children do.
He continued welcoming the bars for his cage into his youth. The constant pressure to conform and to please were so great. Occasionally he rebelliously broke out of his cage to experiment in the world. But eventually and always he returned to the comfort and security of his cage making everyone around him happy and pleased and himself spent but relieved.
As a young man the bars were increasingly apparent and annoying. But what could he possibly do now? The boundaries of his life were so clearly defined, as were the boundaries of others, that it felt impossible for him to deny and defy the corporate enterprise. He knew that to escape this cage would not only implicate a psychic break from himself but a critical break from all others. He knew that his identity was known by the cage he inhabited. Escaping it meant escaping himself and others and the risks were too great to take. The wall against the world had become a wall against him.
As he got older he resigned himself to owning his cage and contentedly living within it. He was just as committed to it as was everyone who loved him. Because to every bar of his cage was attached a string, and at the other end of that string was the loved one who gave it to him. Discarding the bar held the threat of discarding the loved one. Throwing the bar into the sea could drown in sorrow the other attached to it. Walking away from his cage meant walking away from everyone he knew, for they would look for him and not find him where they left him.
Now he'd spent decades making his home there. Now it was well furnished with his own dreams and expectations, warmed by the heat of his confinement. Now it was predictable, safe, and comfortable. Now to start all over again was too daunting and therefore too unthinkable. He had been protected from the world, but now the world was protected from him.
So he continued receiving more and more bars to enhance his living space because it felt like care. He made himself imagine his life was large, not because of the size of his cage but because of the millions of bonds that stretched out into the whole wide world of his relationships that were tenuous only if threatened by him.
Eventually, with so many bars, they completely shut him up, like a box, and that's the one they buried him in.