Letting go

From animals descended, we retain an intuition that
_____sustained our forebears for a billion years.
We’re out of touch with nature—and ourselves—but there’s a distant Eden past,
_____toward which an inner driver steers.
This fundamental conflict pits our primal innocence against
_____the comforts and security we cherish.
If we drop the tiller, navigate on autopilot through the
_____concrete jungle—will we thrive or perish?

They tell us that a conscious choice to cleave to social norms
_____is all that keeps our fragile lives from being wrecked.
But are we so unsuited to this techno-social life
_____that we must constantly keep evil impulse checked?
Are ubiquitous temptations to addiction so persuasive
_____that we’d fall within their sway without strong wills?
And, if so, are these the fruits that we most value from
_____our culture, or its incidental chemicals and pills?

Just imagine that for one sweet day we drop internal struggle
_____and we listen to our impulses innate…
We’ll sleep ’til sunshine calls us and eat double chocolate sundaes
_____and perhaps show up at work three hours late.
We’ll blurt out “I’m in love with you” at moments inappropriate,
_____and touch ourselves indecently on trains,
But I doubt that we’d be tempted into violence or treachery
_____in crazed pursuit of venal, worldly gains.

They say in Summerhill the children all run free, no punishments,
_____no testing, no curriculum or grades
And students when they first arrive (from stricter British boarding schools)
_____do nothing — but the novelty soon fades.
And once they trust their freedom, settle in and find relationships,
_____developing a passion all their own.
Statistics show that (as a rule) they flourish, and as adults are
_____more likely than their peers to be well-known.

The busy beaver has no need to budget time, does not consult with
_____engineers—and yet the dam gets built.
Bonobos know no jealousy; they stroke and fondle friends and come
_____to orgasm in public without guilt.
Even silly geese negotiate monogamy without
_____the benefit of matrimonial law.
And predators, once sated, turn to pussycats, don’t hoard their prey—
_____It’s man alone who’s red in tooth and claw.


We pay a price for holding fast to self-control, negotiating
_____every trite decision that we make.
And freedom from that tension just might open doors to selves we barely knew
_____(if we don’t overdose on cake).
I wonder if it’s worth the risk to let authentic voices speak,
_____relinquishing control we know so well…
From comfortable purgatory, take a leap of faith, fly free,
_____and parachute to heaven or to hell.

And (humor me) imagine if our personal examples spread,
_____became a wave of insubordination…
And (while we’re fantasizing) our demand for more fulfilling lives
_____might trend our politics toward liberation.
While there’s no guarantee our freedom, thus asserted one-by-one,
_____would lead us to utopian solutions,
I’d bet my bippy on our primal souls before I’d put my trust
_____in any extant human institutions.

— Josh Mitteldorf


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