A few weeks ago I was talking with friends. We were discussing what animals we’d like to be if we weren't human. The answers ranged from birds soaring on the updrafts in the mountains, to the tigers, lions, even bunnies (for one who couldn’t stand the thought of killing for food).
The question came up about whether you’d want to be in the wild, or in a protective environment, like a zoo. The benefits of zoo-living would be great! You wouldn’t have to worry about where your next meal came from (or becoming someone else’s next meal for that matter). You’d be able to relax most of the day and enjoy shelter when the weather was bad. Everyone agreed that the zoo life would be much easier than living in the wild.
Then one friend said the thing we all knew but were not voicing. She said, “Yeah, that’d be nice, but you wouldn’t be free.”
Now, I have to admit, I thought about that much longer than the hypothetical conversation was meant to last. I kept thinking about it when everyone else had moved on to other topics. What is that freedom really worth? Is it worth the loss of stability and protection? There is a very real value in living in the zoo and knowing everything is going to be ok (that is, until the zoo goes bankrupt, or denied relocation, I guess).
My animal of choice happened to be the bird soaring on currents in the sky, swooping down to find meals from time to time, but soaring. I pictured myself as an eagle maybe…but a sparrow would do just fine too. I thought about the small birds I’ve seen in zoos. They fly, in very large cages where people walk in and interact with them. They fly, and perch, and swoop, and enjoy a steady diet of seed dispensed from quarter fed vending machines. They haven’t a care in the world for neighborhood cats, and people admire them.
But they don’t soar. What is the point of being a bird if you’re not going to soar? What is the point of being a lion if you can’t roam and sun yourself on any rock you choose? What is the point of being a fluffy bunny if you can’t run and play and do the things bunnies do?
There are so many things keeping us feeling safe, secure, and as if we have no other choice but to accept things as they are. There are many types of zoos that contain many types of animals. For me, planning has become a cage of sorts. The idea that everything has to be thought out and set to some sort of series of events (or even worse, a spreadsheet).
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon
I don’t expect living in the wild would be easier as the comforts disappear. Soaring among the clouds (while keeping a keen eye out for the next meal) might be worth at least breaking out from time to time to get a taste - even if it's not in the master plan to do so. What's the worst that can happen? Maybe they don't let you back in?
Living in the zoo is a choice, but no one will consider you less of a lion for choosing where you live. The only caveat to that is that YOU choose, don't let anyone else make the decision for you. YOU have to be ok with it...or not.
P.S. — The friends here are my daughters. They had no idea what was going on in my head. One day they will understand this idea all too well for themselves. For now, they’re still soaring on the waves of imagination and only starting to “discover” the limits that need not hold them back. There's not a life plan (or spreadsheet) in sight. I hope they never forget that they always have a choice.