The small man
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
A couple of weeks ago I came across the following Hafiz poem on someone else's blog. I'd read the poem many years ago, immediately loved the whimsical, yet deep philosophy behind it, and shortly after completely forgot about it. Such is the case with so many wonderful things I've read. As much as I retain, there is so much more that doesn't make it to the file cabinets in my memory warehouse*. Anyway, the blogger followed the poem with a wonderful post, and finished by asking, “Are you a cage builder or a key dropper?” I loved that he posed such a question, partly because it’s always fun to see someone else’s interpretation of a poem, and partly because it was such a startling, piercing question. (You know stuff like that hooks me with unretractable talons.)
We all, throughout our lives, build cages and drop keys. We build cages not only for others, but for ourselves. I know I’ve managed to trap myself in several of my own, and, believe you me, they’ve been very sturdily made. When I do a thing, I manage to do it well. We build them by setting up false expectations, by making unrealistic demands, through unconstructive criticism, and (largely) with ignorance in all its vainglorious postulation. For shame.
Without really having a name for it, I’ve been striving to be a Key Dropper for the past three years. Unwittingly, it became part of my New Gypsy Paradigm when I started my life all over again after losing John nearly three years ago. All I knew was that I wanted to make my life better, and I wanted to make other’s lives better. Really, you can’t have one without the other. I started with tiny Random Acts of Kindness; I made it a point to smile and say hello to strangers; opened doors (literally and figuratively) for others; and showed my appreciation in whatever way I could to the Key Droppers in my life. Perhaps it hasn’t been a stunning success, but I think it’s been successful nonetheless. For me, Key Dropping isn’t necessarily giving others a way out, but rather showing others that there is a way out. It’s up to them what they do with the key, same as it is with you, same as it is with me, same as it ever was.
Slowly (it seems to me, at least) I’ve crawled out of the cages that confined me, and conversely, I’ve accumulated a goodish quantity of keys. I think, in terms of my dealings with others, that I’ve dropped more keys than I’ve built cages. So, I’m posing the challenge to you: Are you a Cage Builder or a Key Dropper?
Want to be an official Key Dropper? If you email me your address (to firstname.lastname@example.org), I will send you a handmade, credit card sized “badge” that you can easily carry around as a reminder, that says, “I’m a Key Dropper” on one side, and has the Hafiz poem on the other. Tell your friends. Let’s make key dropping an epidemic. What say ye?
*The term Memory Warehouse is ignominiously plagiarized from Stephen King's "Dreamcatcher." Sorry, Mr. King. I know this is two days in a row now, not to mention the countless other times I've, uh... borrowed from your work. I can't help it. All too often you turn a phrase that so quintessentially captures what I'm feeling that it, rather than your creepalicious stories, is what makes me turn all the lights off and wonder who's watching me. I thank you for that.