Sunday, August 13, 2006

Life is the same for everyone

Sitting in a prison cell on a blank Sunday evening brings to mind the words of Nicholas Sarkozy when he said:

"Life is the same for everyone when you are alone at night in an empty room."

It's true too.

This soon turned to contemplating those around me, all in their empty rooms, although to call them rooms gives them a more acceptable connotation than the word 'cells'. Still, a rose by any other name is still a rose.

I know a young fellow, in his early 20's, who has got a life sentence with a minimum of 30 years to serve. So far he has served two or three.

I got to contemplating and wondering what may be going through his mind, in his empty room. I think I need to say that his crime is not what I am talking about, however bad it may have been - what is exercising my brain cells is the sentence.

I've been in prison for over 20 years now and I know what has happened to me mentally during the course of those two decades, but I was 39 years old when I was arrested and consequently knew one or two things about life on this planet. It took me a long time to work out how to survive. It wasn't easy, and still isn't.

However it has to be entirely different for a young man of 22 or 23, or whatever age he is. I haven't asked. What occurs to me is the fact that at the age of 40 it actually meant something to me to discover that I was expected to stay in jail for at least 20 years. I knew how long 20 years was and knew that it was half a lifetime in prison for something I did not do. But that's not the point.

What is the point is this:

How do you make a 23 year old understand what 30 years means?

It means nothing to him; he has no reference point to use, nothing to compare it with, no connection to the reality of the situation. Of course he is optimistic and has the unreasoned faith of youth that, in the words of Mr Macawber, "Something will turn up." Unfortunately the years will begin to pass, he will see himself change as his youth fades and grey hair will appear. He will see his parents grow old and die - he will see his little nieces and nephews grow and produce their own families. He will see so many changes in his own environment but in his heart he will stay 23 years old.

Sooner or later of course reality will kick in and he will go one of two ways. He will either begin to feel sorry for himself, and self-pity can lead to only one logical result: self destruction. On the other hand he may become angry and resentful and the logical end to that road is also self-destruction. So, either way, the young man has nothing before him. There is no one to wave a magic wand and save him; there are no Super-Heroes flying to his rescue and Young Lochinvar is a mere character in a poem.

There is only one thing that will save this young man from perdition, and that is hope. He needs to be given hope because a person with no hope is a lost soul.

It's quite interesting what goes through my mind on a blank Sunday evening - I wonder what is going through the minds of those around me, each in their empty room, because Life is the same for everyone when you are alone at night in an empty room.

The Voice In The Wilderness

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