9. Day 20: Joy Is Freedom

Posted by on Dec 20, 2014 in All-One, Fear of Living Joy | 0 comments

9. Day 20: Joy Is Freedom

Prison does things to a person.  Even if it is pretend.  Today we visited Lancaster Castle which was a prison up until 2011.  It is am imposing building; sturdy, solid, resonating with history, grief and ordinary boredom.  There are still operational courts in the castle complete with carved stone, huge paintings of various dukes and princes and crests of everyone from the most recent High Sheriff to Queen Elizabeth II.  We had one of the most interesting tours we have had in all of the places we visited.  Our docent was a part time actor who had recently published a play based on the true story of a famous witch trial held in Lancaster hundreds of years ago.

Somehow, in the process of hearing about the system of law, the fact that only the lower classes were considered criminal material.  The upper classes were thought to just make “errors of judgment” rather than a crime.  Those of this class could pay to have a servant of sorts, the morning paper delivered and could even have bits of their own furniture brought in.  Most of the “guests” were debtors rather than those having committed what we would call a serious crime. Criminals were sent to America then to Australia rather than housed in Britain.  At one point on the tour those that wanted to could be shut into a cell with the lights turned off for a few moments just to see what it was like.  I was certainly not one who wanted to experience this.  I’ve seen enough horror movies to know you don’t commit all your family to the prison cell, even for “fun” without someone on the outside acting as safety officer.  I think a bit of very real fear crept into this few minutes of pretend while I saw my family locked behind a solid iron door.  This is why I never became an actor, I could never tell where the pretend stopped.

Thank God we're free!

Thank God we’re free!

Then we went to the chamber out of which the prisoners were taken to be hanged.   We saw the wheeled wooden chair that a woman who was being sentenced to death was wheeled to hanging platform because she had collapsed.  At this point the descriptions of the barbaric treatment of prisoners; men and women (and babies if they had them) housed in cells with no toilet facilities save some straw on the floor, iron masks for women who expressed opinions contrary to the norm to name a few.  At this point my flutter of fear turned inward and I just felt sad and hollow.  I was not in any way a prisoner but it was if I could feel the past seeping out from the very stone that surrounded me.  It has taken hours to return to my sense of self.  I felt churlish and trapped somehow and I don’t really even know why or how.  I trudged through the rest of the afternoon only half present.  I don’t know if it was just the thoughts of judgment or fear of the prison and system of law or the fact I was weary after walking for hours on the cobblestone.  All I know is the warmth of our little home away from home and collapsing on the sofa in front of the classic film, “The Great Escape” seemed to break the spell.

Joy today is being so grateful that I nor any of my loved ones are not, nor have I ever been, in prison.   The prison I make for myself disappears quickly when I acknowledge it and ask for peace.  Amen and hallelujah!

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