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Free and Easy

There is one place in this world where everything is free. There is one place where one does not have to work for a living but eats, sings and sleeps just the same. In this one place one does not worry about house rent, grocery budget, electricity, phone and water bills and other day-to-day expenses. In this one place one does not get annoyed over rumor-mongers or fear criminals. In fact, there just isn’t anything to do because there isn’t any obligation at all. This one place is so accessible to the human race. As a matter of fact, this place exists because of popular demand. This one place is the prison cell.

It must be safe to say everyone wants anything for free … the way each one wants to be free. Freedom, oh freedom! And every single being finds freedom the sweetest name of all. Who is free and who isn’t? Who says there is no freedom behind iron bars? And who argues there is absolute freedom outside those bars? The prison cell can be freedom itself. But why is it an abominable, humiliating and horrifying place to be in? People go to jail on their own will or with their consent, whether it be direct or indirect, against all odds – beyond the control of society and the law. Ignorance of the law excuses no one, so it is said. And isn’t one’s conscience his own law?

I was shocked and worried and horrified upon knowing the plight of a good friend put to prison, a simple human being who has spent most of his life on the streets uncomplaining, humming his pain and his hunger as he makes his rounds to collect garbage. I rushed to the jail, questions and anger and anxiety and pity rumbling in my insides, only to heart a calm and consoling voice assuring me he is in a more convenient situation at last! At last???!!! But, of course, he had a roof over his head when he sleeps, to protect him from the sun and the rain, while most of his life he had slept and rested on sidewalks and alleys, or wherever sleep or weariness beat him. And, of course, he enjoys three full meals a day without any effort now, while most of his life he had to exhaust might and main for a single meal each day, not knowing when his next meal will be … that he had almost murdered a person to survive his plight! Did I get the message that the very crime that shut him off the free world was a blessing? Did he make me believe he was willing to be a criminal in any circumstance, if only to avoid the miserable state he left behind? Did I see the logic of his realization – that being good and noble all this time for him was a mistake?

I realized I was shivering inside as he was speaking, feeling so disillusioned in front of a stranger, the friend I was convinced I knew so well until today. No, I can’t be afraid of him … or angry with him. He sounded more convincing than defensive!

My friend’s plight had its candid way of piercing into my whole being, that I felt I was the prisoner … and all the rest in the “free world” I am living in. And worse, we weave our own despicable and horrifying webs around us and sign our own death warrants. Unseen prison cells that devour, devastate, and consume our precious lives … vices, luxuries, insecurities, fears, vanities, greed, pride, ambition – anti-virtues, obsessions and idols that are slowly extinguishing the human race. Show-windows are prison cells just the same, no matter how nicely they appear and are decorated.

What and where is freedom? I felt so ignorant! The blunt words in a poster nagged my illusions and glared at my realization: “They call me a beggar, a scavenger, an eyesore. But what do you call a society that has reduced me to this state?”


Nusrat Ara's picture

This is the irony of out

This is the irony of out times. I hope we wake up soon.


Emie Zozobrado's picture

Really unfortunate!

Yes, Nusrat ... and the beggars and scavengers are not confined in the poor countries ... muggers abound, even in London and in Manhattan!!! When will we ever learn! All the best...

Emie Zozobrado

One of Many's picture

Poignant, thought provoking!

Hi, Emie:

I so appreciate your enthusiasm for sharing stories and the thinking you lead your readers to!

I especially like your last two paragraphs here, Emie. The prisons of our own thinking, of social expectations, of mind games, of assumptions, of tradition and more are something we can be oblivious to. I try to be aware of my assumptions and to regularly question them and to be always open to input. Sometimes surprises help us be aware of prisons we didn't know we were in. But no one's thinking can get them out from behind iron bars.

....and what an irony, indeed, that making a mistake and doing something contrary to your friend's pro-social personality, is what finally got him some protection from the natural elements, and some food. Prisons have other risks and terrors, though.

Thank goodness you shared your story, and everyone who reads this can open our own minds not only to the plight of people like your friend but also to your excellent critical thinking.

As ever,


Speaking my Peace

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Thank you, Anna!

It's so sad that we take so many people around us for granted ... and realize too late we have not really cared enough! Thanks so much for dignifying my critical thinking into excellence! I am sooooo humbled! I guess it is when we are able to recognize our guilt in other people's suffering that our critical mind sharpens into focus and so we learn our lessons.

Emie Zozobrado

One of Many's picture


Yes, Emie:

I agree, accountability for the second and further-on effects / ramifications of actions and decisions that resulted in benefits to us -- (I think that is what you are referring to....??) -- is something that people seem to be resistant to.

The world is so interwoven -- that can be overwhelming and it can be encouraging. It's encouraging because even though there is little I can do for so many wrongs done in the past, I can choose behavior every day that has the right integrity, like making purchasing and eating choices that don't take advantage of oppressed people, like donating to organizations when I can afford to that make a positive impact.

It's wonderful if we can actually act in a way that can remedy the injury or fault done by others.

In fact though, often the opportunities and challenges that come our way all by themselves often take up so much of our lives. Maybe that is where maintaining a 'sitting' practice can help -- it opens up room in our consciousness for things we often overlook.

You definitely get me thinking, Emie -- every time!


Speaking my Peace

Emie Zozobrado's picture

You are right, Anna!

Yes, of course, Anna ... we go about this world in a chain reaction. But sometimes, we can choose to put a stop to a vicious cycle right where we are, the way we react to and effect change in our very own lives. So much can overwhelm us as we do our rounds in our daily lives, that we tend to forget the simple people and simple things that really matter!

In the very recent past, the Philippines demanded apology from Japan on the women victims of World War II when Japan occupied our country for over four devastating and horrible years - the comfort women who were gang-raped all the days of their lives during their captivity ... sex slaves of the beastly Japanese soldiers. Until Japan refuses to issue an apology ... I guess no one wants to take the accountability as they conveniently respond, "WE WERE NOT BORN THEN." Yes, it's very unfair that we have to live with such historical injustice ... but the world goes on and on and we need to move on despite the pain ...

All the best...

Emie Zozobrado

Amei's picture

Emie - freedom & democracy !!!

Very thought provoking and demands reflection. Loved the story and it reminded me of the deskilling, dehumanizing and issue of the workplace. Very critical issues!

Whenever, I walk to do my shopping an wonder what would be the story of the man who sits on the side walk, the man who sits near the bridge and the man who sits on the bench smoking a cigarette with an solemn look on his face. I have come to known that they are homeless. This shows the disparity among the society world wide.

This is worth reading, reflecting and circulating.

All the best :-) Emei


Emie Zozobrado's picture

Thanks Amei!

Yes, Amei ... each one has his own unique and interesting story. Sadly, we fail to listen, even to our own voices, as we get drowned to the familiar cycles that so conveniently trap us into oblivion - forgetting that the world is made of human beings and you are only one of them!

Emie Zozobrado

Ruth Beedle's picture

Heart breaking...

Dear Emie;

I need to read your story again. The first time through my heart has broken, but not for your 'friend'. For you. And for all the hardness that makes a prison cell look better than being free.

There is no question that there are some among us who may never be able to care for themselves. What are the circumstances that lead a person to that place? Is it hopelessness? It is mental illness? I don't know. I am confounded by the people who choose to live their lives on the fringes because there are so many who would have it otherwise but feel it has been chosen for them.

How did it end, Emie? Where is your heart now?


Anna, it happens all the time right here where I am. It is happening right now. Beggars, vagrants, scavengers ... so many live on garbage and spoils. At certain times they fight and hurt each other over garbage and spoils since it's their only means of survival. I have always known my friend as a happy man. He was not the kind who would get into such kind of trouble. But then, sometimes there are riots that gets good people into involvement and leaves them "no choice" but to fight and defend themselves. My friend was a common sight in our neighborhood as he used to do his rounds collecting garbage in the morning. But ever since he went to jail (he was released shortly) we hadn't seen him in the neighborhood anymore. I do hope that in his temporary isolation he had come to terms at aiming for a better life and working for it and finding it somehow.

It's easy to blame others for our plights ... government, media, politicians... but we also see people who rise from the garbage and the ashes. My heart goes out to the needy, the wanting, the less privileged, the marginalized .... but somehow I know that there is no one else that can take you out of the bondage but you alone. There is always a way out, and only those who would take the time and the effort to find it will get there. Even thinking that you have no choice is a choice. I hope you know what I mean.

Emie Zozobrado

One of Many's picture

One More Perspective

Hi again, Emie:

I recently watched a movie from 1987, "Ironwood"...with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep -- about life in the thirties in a city in America....and the many themes included the ones we have been discussing -- from within the depths of the American Great Depression. Hopelessness, addiction, mental illness, trauma, passion, soul and spirituality, love, terror, honor, and courage.

The human drama in its fullness.

I pray that your friend is safe and sound.


Speaking my Peace

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Yes, the human drama goes on ...

Anna, it's real unfortunate, that the vicious cycle and the chain reaction that we know and understand so well goes on and on, even getting worse in some instances, and we never really learn!

My friend is just one of them. He's an adult and he has a lot of personal options. So many helpless children are out there on the streets... and there is not much they can hold on to except the concern and compassion of those around, ahead, and above them The tragic and painful human drama continues, because those who can stop fail to do so. That's why we are here ... to try to make a difference!

Emie Zozobrado

warona's picture

Something that sours the heart

Dear Emie


'In the very recent past, the Philippines demanded apology from Japan on the women victims of World War II when Japan occupied our country for over four devastating and horrible years - the comfort women who were gang-raped all the days of their lives during their captivity ... sex slaves of the beastly Japanese soldiers. Until Japan refuses to issue an apology ... I guess no one wants to take the accountability as they conveniently respond, "WE WERE NOT BORN THEN." Yes, it's very unfair that we have to live with such historical injustice ... but the world goes on and on and we need to move on despite the pain ...' This touches my heart!

Indeed this world is full of crazy things.However to comment on your post, Hey life in prison is terrible even here in my country the peope who have been there will tell you stories.Well some other people may be happy others not.I believe the reason why we have people in prisons today is because of poor upbring of children.Thats why we women on world pulse we asound our voices to reach some hopeless mothers so that they correct situations.I know more questions might be popping in to your head now, bear in your mind that with God all things are possible.

Thank you for sharing



"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

Emie Zozobrado's picture

We need to do something, sister!

Warona, that's why we're here! We need to be the change we want to see in the world! We know we can do it, little by little, one step, one day, one person at a time! We will make it because God destined us to work this out together ... mothers, sisters, daughters ... we have to own the world to make it a better place to live in....

Emie Zozobrado

vivian's picture


what an irony piece you have here, you have portray the prison to look like a safe place for the needy and truly it could be because they have a roof over their head.

Well done


''Every woman have a story at every stage of Life''

Emie Zozobrado's picture

It's a sad reality!

It's really unfortunate ... but it's true! People are very unsafe sleeping on pavements, side walks and dark alleys, exposed to the sun, the rain, the addicts and criminals, that a prison cell would be a better option for some. And, of course, they don't even know how, where and when they could ever find food! Well, we can't wait for the government to do something for us .... somehow there are battles that we have to fight on our own ...

Emie Zozobrado

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