I want to leave my writing behind for when I am gone and the question of who I was enters people's minds. If I am executed, there will be some who believe I deserved it. But those who want to try to make sense of it will see, through my writing, a human being who made mistakes. Maybe my writing will at least help them see me as someone who felt, loved, and cared, someone who wanted to know for himself who he was. My writing will hopefully show those people that they could easily have been me.
- Jarvis Jay Masters, Finding Freedom
I have spent some time thinking about what to blog after reading Jarvis Jay Master's Finding Freedom. For one thing, the writing is simple, not exactly literary, but it felt like a breath of fresh air. Here was a man thrown into prison. As a man on death's row, society has marked him as condemned. Yet there exists a yearning to know himself truly. Even a death sentence cannot diminish the dignity of a life, nor put out the desire for life. It reminded me of something George Orwell wrote in his essay, "A Hanging":
It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working--bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming--all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned--reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone--one mind less, one world less.
In the midst of great suffering, there rises the yearning to really know yourself. In his simple language, Jarvis articulated an extraordinary capacity for self-awareness. He folds his blanket every morning, and sits down on it for his meditation. Even in the midst of the violence of his surrounding, he showed that it is still possible for a kind of peace within. He struggles with it, and prison is a place where trying to help someone might just get him killed. Yet he still makes the effort. He shows up for his life.
After reading Jarvis's story, all I really had to ask myself was this: what is my excuse for not practicing wholeheartedly? Can my circumstances be more difficult than Jarvis'? Have I showed up for my life, like Jarvis did for his?