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A poem by 14th century Persian poet, Hafiz, snagged my attention recently. Known as “Dropping Keys”, the poem initially halted my scrolling because of the imagery. The key is my symbol for the year, a visual representation of how curiosity unlocks doors. Whenever I see my symbol, it is an energetic tap on the shoulder to pay attention to something important.
While the original wording uses the masculine pronoun throughout the poem, the version I saw used the feminine instead, which resonated deeply with me.
Below is the short poem, Dropping Keys, and the unpacking of my thoughts about it.
Dropping Keys Poem
The small woman
Builds cages for everyone
While the Sage,
Who has to duck her head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
Those powerful words make my heart beat a little faster, every time I read them. An increased heart rate is another aspect of my personal guidance system that brings my attention to something significant. I’ve sat with this poem for several weeks, reading it daily and allowing it to speak to me.
Here is the unpacking of the meaning, for me. Perhaps the poem will connect with you as well.
Living Small Lives
The small woman builds cages for everyone she knows.
The person living small, male or female, is one who attempts to control life and others. Fear and lack of trust keep her vision blindered and her breath shallow. She can’t see that beyond the fear and distrust there is a bigger perspective, a bigger life, available.
Thus the small woman attempts to control life as best she can. To make it more manageable, she builds cages for everyone she knows. Putting people into cages isolates them, undermines their abilities and reduces their impact. It’s an attempt to keep others small, for the small person wants people to be like her.
One of the most common ways to cage another is to belittle them. Have you thought about where that word comes from? Belittle…be little…means to make someone seem small and unimportant. It’s a word Thomas Jefferson coined, that originally meant to “diminish in size”.
The small woman, or man, belittles another with labeling, manipulation and imposed limitations.
“You are too much…too stupid…not attractive enough.” “I want you to remain quiet…to please me…to learn to fit in.” “You can’t do that…you aren’t capable…you don’t belong.”
Living in Cages
We might grow accustomed to living in cages, for a time. There is a false sense of security there. However, whether another cages us or we build those cages ourselves, the end result is that we stop growing. The outside world keeps going while time slows down for the imprisoned.
We aren’t meant to live small, caged lives. Eventually the spirit rebels against the constraints, the smallness, and yearns for a bigger existence. Rowdiness overcomes us.
I love that word. Rowdy is a noisy and disorderly desire to overthrow restraints. Rowdiness is the soul flexing, readying itself for growth. That restlessness we see in zoo or circus animals, as they pace back and forth in their cages? That’s what the caged soul begins to do, pace in restlessness as it seeks a way out.
Rowdiness questions, tests boundaries and pushes against the smallness. The beautiful rowdy prisoner watches for a key to drop.
Freedom to Live a Bigger Life
I know what living in a cage feels like. By choice, I remained in one for many years. Fear formed the bars of my cage as I allowed others to say how I would live and what I would do or would not do. I lost my voice and my smallness nearly made me invisible.
How grateful I am, for the rowdiness that crept in as my soul bumped against the edges of beyond. How thankful I am, for the keys that dropped to me.
Authors, speakers, films, music, ordinary people living extraordinary lives…all dropped keys to me. What I found, as I at last stepped to the door of my cage, keys in hand, is that the door was never locked. The keys opened up my soul, rather than the cage. They helped me recognize the fear guarding my door. Once I named it and overcame it, the cage collapsed. It could not contain me any longer.
The beauty of leaving the cage is that growth happens immediately. And that growth continues, as long as we remain aware of the callings within us. We can’t return to that cage, ever. We’ve outgrown it. We don’t fit anymore.
Becoming the Sage
While the Sage, who has to duck her head when the moon is low, keeps dropping keys all night long for the beautiful, rowdy prisoners.
In contrast to the small woman who cages, the sage frees those beautiful rowdy prisoners.
A sage is one who gains wisdom through reflection and experience. She’s lived enough life to figure out who she is and why she is here, and she’s busted out of that cage that kept her small.
The sage grows, sees with a bigger perspective and lives in an expansive way. She’s found her voice, found her purpose, discovered her passions and banished her fears. The sage doesn’t care what others think of her or say about her, and she never, ever allows another to cage her again.
As she journeys, the sage drops keys of freedom by fully existing as her wild, raw and beautiful self, showing the caged that life is so much bigger than that which constrains them. She uses her voice and creates art, music, poems, books, blog posts and films that stir the soul into rowdiness.
She is unapologetic about who she is and where she is going. Is she perfect? No, she is still growing and learning and following curiosity. But she is free. And that spirit of freedom is contagious. It too, is a key.
This is Your Key
If life feels small to you…if your soul is stirring and longing for something bigger to embrace…consider this post your key. The door to the cage isn’t locked…however, grasping the key gives you hope to hold on to as it propels you beyond.
I’ve realized recently that the whole concept of “going beyond”, that I’ve been given, is part of my purpose here on earth. I’m called to go beyond, and in doing so, I’m instructed to take others with me. Or rather, I’m called to set others free, so they can find their own way beyond…fears, comfort zones and limiting beliefs. Go and live a big life, as the one you are created to be.
Does this make me a sage? Maybe. It is a role that is new to me and yet one I’ve been journeying toward for a while. Journey now with me, for as long as you want. There is a big, wide existence for all of us to explore and experience.
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