I bought a caged finch in Japan years ago. I took it home and left the cage door open so it could fly around if it wished, but it wouldn’t. It just stayed contentedly in its cage. Months passed before it ventured out. I left the window open too, and soon it would go out, fly about, and return home. The bird stayed away longer and longer until one day, it didn’t return.
I notice a parallel here between me and that bird. I spent years, more or less inside civilization’s paradigm, venturing out of society’s cultural cage from time to time.
I venture out more frequently now, and can’t imagine giving up the freedom to return. However, truth be told, it is a toss up. There is also the freedom of safety and comfort within the paradigm, while outside of it there is often a fearsome sense of awe and mystery. Which is the greater freedom? One offers freedom to feel safe and comfortable, the other offers the freedom to feel awe and as chapter 15 says, Tentative, as if fording a river in winter, Hesitant, as if in fear of his neighbors.
Like the bird, I could never return to the freedom of my former safe and comfortable cage. I doubt anyone could. On the other hand, I could never recommend someone giving up their cage either. In life, we must go with the ‘toss up’ circumstances give us. Like the bird, we leave the ‘cage’ when we can no longer stay. To stay or leave, that is the question. As it happens, to paraphrase chapter two, Staying and leaving produce each other. It truly does happen to us naturally, as chapter 17 hints.