Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bondage

Last week I saw the play Resurrection, which - by the way - I highly recommend. In thought-provoking ways, the play opens windows to an African American male slice-of-life. As the week passes, I find my thoughts caught in the revolving door of analysis. My mind has become consumed with slavery and self-imposed slavery, causing me to question whether there is any type of slavery but what we impose upon ourselves.

The play chronicles a brief history of blacks in America. It speaks of the princely backgrounds from which American slaves were stolen. From riches to rags, to spite the common adage. From these heights, Africans descended to the status of slaves and mere property. Emancipation and civil rights freed them from the more obvious and explicit forms of slavery. But slavery and bondage live on in equally despicable manners. African Americans may no longer be slaves to ignorant white men, but they continue to be slaves to addictions of the mind and body: drugs, violence, food, poverty. Each man in the play has his own slavery that he is struggling with, whether it is heroine, HIV, prison, or poor eating habits.

While African American males may be more likely to be imprisoned or suffer from diabetes, the situation is not unlike our own plight (and I speak with the royal we here). We come trailing clouds of glory, yet we subject ourselves to the great enslaver every day. How easily we allow ourselves to forge chains and be led quietly down. We are told that we are "free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil." We are free to "act for [ourselves] and not to be acted upon." Even when we are physically in bondage, we still have the gift to choose. In contrast to physical slavery, bondage of our minds and emotions comes primarily from ourselves and our poor use of agency. Through those acts of choice, we enable ourselves further continual action, ensuring that we are not acted upon. In D&C it says, "Release thyself from bondage," which suggests that we have a responsibility to act deliberately to release ourselves and keep ourselves free from the sins that so easily beset us. In this sense, we can be like Ammon and his people, dedicating all our study to delivering ourselves from bondage. But my question is, at the most fundamental level, if we are using our agency correctly, can we ever be in bondage? I'm not saying one way or the other, it's just something I've been thinking about. Is there any real and ultimate form of slavery besides that which we ourselves cause?

8 comments:

Jecca Lee Ivie Johnson said...

I have been pondering some similar thoughts since I started reading this book called "The Shack." It's fiction, but it has caused me to think so deeply about the way I view tragedy and our perceptions of what we think we have no control over and who is to blame. I don't know any solid answer to your question. I will think some more on it.

Mark E said...

Really good post. It feeds my thoughts on will power that I have been having as of late.

On another note, you guys (the OC gang) have inspired me to start a personal blog. It's not like I'm not already involved in several blogs, just none of them document my life like your blogs seem to.

Brian and chelsea said...

Ever read Bonds that Make Us Free? Some of your thoughts reminded me of passages from there (its one of my favorite books).
I wish I could share your comments with my younger sister, who has some serious substance abuse issues. I could, but it would go over her head (amazing how those drugs fry the brain).
So the question is... when you find yourself in bondage to a certain mindset or particular idea - how do you get released?! Especially when it seems like everyone else believe it too...

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