I bought a finch in Japan in the early 70’s. 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 each day until one day it didn’t return. (photo: a little one on one with my bird)
I see a parallel here between that bird and me. I was born into and spent years inside civilization’s cultural cage. As I ventured out more frequently, I couldn’t imagine giving up this freedom to return to the security and comfort of that cage. Chapter 15 describes true freedom’s less secure side … 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 cultural cage. On the other hand, I could not recommend someone giving up their cage either. We must go with whatever circumstances throw our way. Like the bird, we leave the cage when we can no longer stay.
Caged or free, either way comes with a cost. In the wild, the urge to be free counterbalances the need to be safe and comfortable. Civilization disrupts this dynamic tension when wealth permits us to free ourselves from our culture’s societal cage. The cost of such freedom is an increase in loneliness. As a social species, we never evolved to be as free as civilization allows us to become. (See The Tradeoff, p.549.)