Two eminent African-American poets of the 20th century, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Maya Angelou, both explore the metaphor of why the caged bird sings. Time caught in the crux of life’s dark crucibles has taught me why:
#1 Singing is in its nature. A bird was made to sing, but in the cage it faces a choice–to surrender or embrace life. The caged bird that sings does so despite circumstances—or maybe even more so because of them: the song emanates from a refusal to die.
#2 The bird knows its voice is heard. No matter how dark the situation is, Someone hears. A Heart of love receives the notes. Why wouldn’t it sing when the song connects it to the Source that sustains?
#3 The sound may fall on other ears that need to hear its voice, singing into and against the darkness.
There seems to be plenty of reasons why not to sing nowadays. The stakes are rising ever higher, even coming in explosive packages. Our crowded little planet is rocked with major changes in weather and natural disasters. Our global community is struggling with responding to displaced people, like the 7,000-strong immigrant caravan approaching the southern border. And, our national politics increasingly read more like a political novel (or even a dystopian one) than like the work of world leaders.
Even so, this is not the time for silence. It also is not the time for clamoring voices, rattling emotive reactions and airing personal opinions. If you speak up, use your voice to make a difference, to shed light in darkness, to anchor those tossed and confused in the storm. Otherwise, listen to those who can do these things and work to understand current issues for yourself.
Let’s not panic or stick our heads in the sand. Now is the time to buckle down, ground ourselves on a firm foundation, and develop our own authentic voices and roles. It may be dark in this cage of a world, but I still have a song to sing. I hope you do too.