Shots of Wit

A regular posting of witticisms, aphorisms, and general musings by Clifford Cohen.

Escaping personal prisons…

You cannot truly escape a prison using only the substance from which the prison is made.

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There are many kinds of prisons—physical and mental. In each case, a cogent argument can be made that escaping any prison is difficult, if not impossible, without bringing to bear tools that are not intrinsically associated with the thing that constrains you. Here is an example:

A person sits in a prison for having committed a crime. While they certainly can escape the physical prison by using tools fashioned from the physical building, they cannot escape the “mental prison” they are in—the prison that likely put them there in the first place. Escaping a mental prison requires use of an entirely different set of tools—ones that are psychological and spiritual in nature, and that promote healing, self-knowledge, and personal enlightenment. With the use of these tools, the person can truly understand the impact of what they did, find the motivation to not do it again, and truly repent. Only in this way can the prisoner earn the opportunity to leave (not escape) both the physical and mental prisons they are in.

If you find yourself feeling trapped by anything or any situation, and you have decided to escape that thing or situation by running from it, take a step back and consider whether running, by itself, will accomplish what you want it to (important exception: if you are in any situation in which you are in personal danger (physical and/or mental), run like hell and work things out later when you are in a safe place). The likelihood is that your plan of escape will not fully succeed unless you view your problem more holistically and take steps to address the larger context of your predicament.

If you are an academic involved in a research project and have hit a conceptual roadblock that prevents further progress based on the parameters of the problem domain itself, consider whether the application of ideas or concepts from other academic disciplines might illuminate the matter. Or, consider whether elements within the problem domain may be doing things that are not typically associated with such elements.

Sometimes, prisons are not prisons at all, but are instead constructed in our minds as such, from materials manufactured in our own imaginations.

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