February 8, 2008

Prisoner of “Freedom”

Category: News — Ira @ 6:00 pm


“In prison, those things withheld from
and denied to the prisoner become
precisely what he wants most of all.”

—Eldridge Cleaver

He would be free, he thought.

Free from the prison of his unhappy circumstances.

Free to live life as it should be lived, to greet and seize each day. Savor it. Extract from it all he could. To live. Really live. And be free to share his passions with the “love of his life,” his soul mate.

He had a wife. And family. And a very successful business he had patiently nurtured over the course of many years. Wealth. A beautiful new home. On top of a hill, sur- rounded by trees and fields and a pond.

But his soul was empty. He chafed to live. To be free. He threw his energy into many different things. Missions. Flying. A new church group, founded from the ground up. He even bought an old church house and donated it to the church group.

He was voted into office as a church leader. Not an elder. A team, they called it. He was one of five. Took his turn occasionally preaching a sermon. He waved his Bible and peered over his bifocals at his audience from behind the little podium. Forcefully proclaimed the Word. With darkness in his heart and death in his soul.

Because something had happened.

He had found the “love of his life.” His soul mate. There was only one small problem. She was married to someone else.

Despite that, they launched into a passionate affair. In secret, as such things always begin. It seemed so exciting. The affair was different from all others in history, he felt, because it involved them. He convinced himself it was not wrong, but right. The affair continued for about a year, with increasing intensity.

He envisioned the future, when they would be together. When they would be free. And begin a new life. In a faraway place.

Then one day, almost exactly one year ago, he made some bad decisions. Let down his guard. Showed up at a public event. Displayed for all to see his devoted attach- ment to her. Trailed around after her like a smitten puppy. The relationship was exposed. At least a part of it.

The proverbial crap hit the proverbial fan. A major explosion followed.

He bluffed. Lied. Blatantly. Pounded his fist on the table. Wept some crocodile tears. Claimed it was not what it appeared to be. Figured the full force of his aggressive personality would overwhelm any inquiries.

The bluff worked. For awhile. And the lies. But not for long. The truth eventually clawed its way to the surface. Was proclaimed from the roof tops. Flew across the land like a lightning bolt. In all its raw and bloody details. He staggered from the blow.

Unknown to anyone, he had traveled to a large southwestern city and bought a big house on two acres. For himself. And his soul mate. By then, she had left her husband and moved to another large city, not that far away from the city where he bought his big new house.

His big new house was a beautiful place. In an upscale neighborhood. Perfect views of the mountains. And high-desert sunsets. A place to be free.

And so he left. His family. His church. His business. All his friends. Moved two thousand miles away to his big new house. With its beautiful views of the mountains and high-desert sunsets.

Now I can be free, he thought. He changed his first name. New life, new identity, and all that. Hiked the mountains around his big new house. Tanned in the sun. Bought a new convertible. Lost some weight. Let his hair grow long. Whitened his teeth. Took dancing lessons. So he could dance with his soul mate.

It was fun. He felt free. For awhile. But he was alone, mostly. And strangely empty. His support structure evaporated. Old friends no longer spoke to him. Or hung out. Or returned his calls. Slowly, realization dawned. Of what he was becoming. An outcast. A pariah. Persona non grata.

But he still had his soul mate. He clung to the relationship. It was all he had. She came to see him. For a long weekend. In his new place, his big new house with its beautiful views of the mountains and high-desert sunsets.

She was all he wanted. All he’d ever dreamed of. But he wondered, deep down, if she really felt the same. If she was really true to him, in the big city where she lived when they were apart. Deep down, he also knew the answer.

They flew around in his plane, a twin engine Barron. One day, as the plane was just off the ground, a wind shear nearly brought it down. He struggled for control. For a brief second almost lost it. But somehow, he got it back. The plane bucked, then steadied. And straightened.

A crash would have killed them both. Provided tons of dramatic sermon fodder. For a lot of preachers. For a long, long time.

But it didn’t happen. Because he was who he was, he figured. Such things couldn’t happen to him.

Now and again he went back to his old home, the area he’d left. To see his family. To conduct business. But he discovered things had changed. Drastically. No one wanted to see him. And no one would. Not his old friends. Not even his children. The realization sank in deeper. What he was. An outcast. A pariah. A person not welcome.

He always returned alone to his big new house two thousand miles away, with its beautiful views of the mountains and high-desert sunsets. Alone, with his freedom.

One wonders. Had he been able to fathom the actual costs, would he have made the same choices? Danced to the same piped tune? Way back, when the affair began? Who knows? Maybe. Maybe not. But probably.

In illicit matters of the heart, once certain lines are crossed, there comes a point of no return. Where perceived delights of instant gratification override any measured con- siderations of the terrible price. That the Piper will always require. Always. With no exceptions.

So he finally has it. By the bushel and by the truckload. The “freedom” he craved. So deeply, for so long. And finally pursued. And grasped. And held onto. At the cost of all he accumulated, all he treasured, relationship-wise, over a span of almost fifty years.

But what is true freedom? And does he really have it? And what is he now?

He is a wicked man. Living in darkness. With a hardened heart. With death in his soul. He is also a lot of other things.

But one thing he is not.

He is not free.



It just doesn’t happen. Not like that. Magically. At the last minute. When what must be done gets done, against all the laws of probability. When underdogs bristle, rise up, and seize the prize. And suddenly, the inevitable crowning ceremony dashed, exposed in shambles for the shell game it was.

But wasn’t it something? WOW, as one reader commented. What a game. It was without question the best Super Bowl I’ve ever seen. Maybe the best ever. Certainly one of the best.

I hosted my usual two Super Bowl guests. My brother Steve and my friend Paul Zook. I don’t like to be around a lot of people; it detracts from the business of watching the game. Paul watches one football game a year. The Super Bowl, at my house. He and Steve have been coming now for probably the last five or six years. Paul always asks which team I’m rooting for and picks the other one. It works. Makes it lively.

I had plenty of food. Cheese, meat and chips. And a great pot of my award-winning (in my own mind) secret formula chip dip, which includes but is not limited to hamburger and cheese and salsa, all heated up in one gooey mass. My guests must have liked it, because they sure ate a lot of it.

I warned my guests that if New England was leading by 20 points or more by halftime, I would shut down the party and send them home. They chuckled and kept right on feasting on chips and many bowls full of my award-winning chip dip.

My thoughts on the game. Tom Brady spent a lot of time in a position that I liked a lot, lying flat on his back looking up at the domed roof. The Giants’ defense dominated. Harried Brady. Hit him. Sacked him. He was shocked. And stunned. And out of his rhythm all night. And the amazing thing: that Giants defense did not get one off-sides penalty all night. They simply overpowered the Patriots’ offensive line, causing an uncharacteristic number of false starts.

Watching the entire game was exhausting. Because you knew, just knew, as surely as the vile Bellichek was wearing that ratty cut-sleeve hoody of his on the sidelines, that the Patriots were going to pull it out at the end. Sure enough, they scored with less than three minutes to play. Steve and I just looked at each other. But I forced myself to watch it to the bitter end.

And then Eli Manning got his moment in the sun, and in front of a disbelieving world, coolly rose to the occasion and performed like a champion. The last drive of the game will quite likely go down as one of the all-time classics in football lore.

The sequence of events.

The final drive. Eighty-three yards. Every snap from center in the shotgun formation was low. Eli had to reach down for the ball. Every time. A fourth and one. An almost-interception. A near-sack, then the magic escape, the desperate throw, and equally magic catch. The touchdown a few plays later almost seemed like an afterthought. You knew they were going to get in somehow. Such magic just doesn’t happen, not on the last drive of the Super Bowl. Once, maybe twice in a lifetime. That it all clicks. That the football gods smile. And that your team wins against insurmountable odds.

After the touchdown, Steve and I joined about ninety million other people (out of the ninety-seven million watching in this country) in one long delirious shout of triumph. And high-fives. Paul Zook looked glum and pretended he didn’t care. Which he probably didn’t.

The Patriots almost reached the summit. They had their hands on the latch of the golden door, and were pulling it open. To enter in triumph. To claim immortality as the greatest team ever, in NFL history. But suddenly their hands were slapped away, the golden door slammed in their faces. At the last possible minute, they failed. Tasted the agony of bitter defeat. It will haunt them always.

They had a remarkable run. Winning 18 straight games. But many of their players are old. They were hanging on for this perfect season. A lot of them won’t be back, I think.

They had another problem. During their remarkable run, they dissed a lot of teams. Ran up the score. Classlessly. Ruthlessly. So it was easy to hate them. And so much the sweeter when they stumbled and failed at the exact moment the ultimate prize was in their grasp.

I still respect the team. And some of the players. After the game, Tom Brady was a class act. He answered all questions. Honestly. Unlike his coach, the vile Bellichek, who dissed the Giants and the game by leaving the field before the game was officially over. And muttered clipped, one-word answers in the post-game interviews.

It was great to see Coach Coughlin and Little Manning celebrate. Redemption is sweet. And Little Manning is now no longer just Payton’s little brother. He is Sir Eli, knighted victorious on the battlefield of blood and fire. When the chips were down. Before hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide. The slayer of one of the greatest teams ever to play the game.

In politics, Super Tuesday has come and gone. Not that I watched any of it. Or any of the talking heads. It appears that McCain pretty much has the Republican nomination locked up. I can’t imagine how that happened. But it did.

I WILL NOT vote for him, should he be the nominee. I just won’t. And I encourage my readers not to, either. He might as well be a Democrat, from his atrocious voting record. On speech. On global warming. On immigration. He’s Ted Kennedy’s buddy. I believe Hillary would do less damage to this country than McCain. Not that I’ll vote for her. I’ll probably end up writing in a candidate, maybe Ron Paul. Or voting for the Constitutional Party candidate, if they can get one on the ballot.

Happy Valentine’s Day (to those to whom it applies).




  1. New England will become a sports trivia question and a footnote to history as the years pass. I chose to support them but there was no passion in that pick. The Giants are to be congratulated. They out fought and out coached the Pats, learning from their close defeat at the end of the season and using that lesson to triumph.

    I would vote for John McCain over a Democrat. When I apply the first question that I always apply to a political candidate, what is your view of abortion on demand?, he comes out pro-life. I do trust that he will do what he says, and I will never say that of a Clinton. I think that Barak Obama is a man of integrity, but he is much too liberal for my taste. I would much rather have a President that I disagree with on many issues but know he is exactly what he appears to be then to have a focus group and legacy driven President. Reminds me a lot of the contrast between sweet lips Tom Dewey and Harry Truman. So to paraphrase a political mantra from 60 years ago, give em hell John.

    Interesting how many works of art through human history dwell on theme of the man or woman lusting for some prize, throwing everyone in their way to the wolves, finally grasping the prize only to have it crumble in their hands. Faust sold his soul to Satan. Dorian Gray kept eternal youth while his portrait and soul corroded away. Consider even popular works such as the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The wealthy Walter Donovan sponsors the quest for the Holy Grail, only to be revealed as the evil genius who seeks it for his own use, dying in horror as he drinks death from what he has sought for so long (or so he thought). I predict the same for ___ (or whatever his first initial is now) unless he finds Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior in a soul ripping crisis conversion.

    Comment by Mark Hersch — February 8, 2008 @ 7:58 pm

  2. Thank you Giants! There is justice in the world.

    Comment by Ken Miller — February 8, 2008 @ 9:18 pm

  3. Nearly a year ago a siltation similar to ___’s came to its inevitable end. My uncle, business man, preacher, faithless husband and father died a slow death of colon cancer. My cousins reconciled with him somewhat, his daughter and daughter in law made sure that the grand children had some connection with him. His son spoke to his father for the first time in years just before he died. They were so so very angry for a long time. I recently saw a picture of him from those intervening years – he was nearly unrecognizable- part of me wants to say that regret and guilt is what robbed him of his debonair style.

    I suppose I post this because many of the readers here make up the community that surrounds ___’s children. Let them feel and be angry, without judgement, at their father, even at God (He’s a big guy; He can handle it), at the church – Perhaps this has already been occurring.

    (before anyone pops a theological cork – I don’t mean angry at God in a -curse God and die way – but to approach God in an authentic and raw way which can include anger)

    Comment by Glo — February 8, 2008 @ 11:58 pm

  4. You are right, he and she are not free; freedom is found only in obeying the word of God…. This world needs more real men, men that obey God no matter what life brings their way.

    Comment by gideon yutzy — February 9, 2008 @ 1:46 am

  5. I will vote for McCain in November. I might not agree with all his bills and positions, but I believe his heart is in the right place and he has the country’s best interests in mind and he is sincere. He means what he says. That’s more I can say about any of the others, except Ron Paul. If anybody has Huckabee’s phone number, call him and let him know the Republicans already have a nominee.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — February 9, 2008 @ 11:52 am

  6. Beautiful writing! You, my friend, have moved forward in the past year. God bless!

    Comment by marvin y — February 9, 2008 @ 10:33 pm

  7. I was celebrating right there with you each and every time Brady got sacked!! (of course you already knew this by all the text messages…)

    I do agree about our current choices of candidates; however there is NO chance I will vote for Hillary!!

    Comment by Janice — February 10, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

  8. Ira, today I applaud the person you are becoming. I agree with Marvin, and thank God the past year is behind us. May God continue to hold you in the palm of His hands.

    Comment by rachel — February 11, 2008 @ 1:28 pm

  9. Reuben Wagler is proud to announce his engagement to Barbara Ann Graber. He created a website http://www.BarbaraAnnWagler in her honor. Visit the website, look at the pictures, and sign the guestbook.

    The Editor

    Comment by admin — February 11, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

  10. I sincerely hope Rube Wagler an Barb Graber’s wedding can unfold in such a manner that it won’t forever after simply be labeled as “the Florida nightmare” or “a public event.”

    Comment by John Wagler — February 11, 2008 @ 9:53 pm

  11. John, you & Dort really had a nice wedding…The setting & food were wonderful…May God continue to bless your union in spite of the unhappy circumstances that unfolded there.

    Comment by wilma — February 11, 2008 @ 10:22 pm

  12. Another well written article that came out of your heart.

    I root for no sports except to pick on my dear hubby!

    Comment by Jean — February 12, 2008 @ 2:34 pm

  13. It’s an electrifying time to live in NYC. We watched the last 3 minutes of the Superbowl on our feet and celebrated with the city at the parade. We were fortunate to be in the second row so we had a great view of the players and we were able to get some good photos. 1.2 million excited fans packed into a several block long area was amazing to see.

    Comment by Gary S. — February 14, 2008 @ 9:51 am

  14. Sad that the enslaved “free” man did not know how to engage in the ancient art of spiritual warfare.

    “Thus, a good man, though a slave, is free; but a wicked man, though a king, is a slave. For he serves, not one man alone, but, what is worse, as many masters as he has vices [passions].”
    – St. Augustine, City of God

    “The world is the general name for all the passions. When we wish to call the passions by a common name, we call them the world. But when we wish to distinguish them by their special names, we call them the passions. The passions are the following: love of riches, desire for possessions, bodily pleasure from which comes sexual passion, love of honour which gives rise to envy, lust for power, arrogance and pride of position, the craving to adorn oneself with luxurious clothes and vain ornaments, the itch for human glory which is a source of rancour and resentment, and physical fear. Where these passions cease to be active, there the world is dead; for though living in the flesh, they did not live for the flesh. See for which of these passions you are alive. Then you will know how far you are alive to the world, and how far you are dead to it”
    – St. Isaac the Syrian

    [The passions are said by the eastern church to be a function of the “animal skins” —the fallen human nature that depends on the senses for survival— in which Adam and Eve, and all humanity thereafter, became “clothed” after their “robes of righteousness” or god-likeness was lost and they discovered they were “naked” of godliness. The passions are understood as the gateway for demonic temptation of humanity, the point at which humanity enters into synergy with grace, or “uncreated divine energies”, through spiritual warfare for healing in dispassion, or succumbs to temptation by giving way to the passions.]

    And then there’s once again in this post the noise of passion of ole Stoltzfus’ ghostly chain rattling and the worldly mind that ran in fear from it LOL
    Chain forged in the same manner as this“chain” albeit perhaps from an “opposite” pole of extreme –

    At this the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise, that Scrooge held on tight to his chair, to save himself from falling in a swoon.  But how much greater was his horror, when the phantom taking off the bandage round its head, as if it were too warm to wear indoors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast!
    Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face.
    “Mercy!” he said.  “Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?”
    “Man of the worldly mind!” replied the Ghost, “do you believe in me or not?”
    “I do,” said Scrooge.  “I must.  But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?”
    “It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.  It is doomed to wander through the world — oh, woe is me! — and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!”
    Again the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain and wrung its shadowy hands.
    “You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling.  “Tell me why?”
    “I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.  Is its pattern strange to you?”
    Scrooge trembled more and more.
    “Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself?  It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago.  You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!”
    Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in the expectation of finding himself surrounded by some fifty or sixty fathoms of iron cable: but he could see nothing.
    “Jacob,” he said, imploringly.  “Old Jacob Marley, tell me more.  Speak comfort to me, Jacob!”
    “I have none to give,” the Ghost replied.  “It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men.  Nor can I tell you what I would.  A very little more, is all permitted to me.  I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere.  My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house — mark me! — in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!”
    It was a habit with Scrooge, whenever he became thoughtful, to put his hands in his breeches pockets.  Pondering on what the Ghost had said, he did so now, but without lifting up his eyes, or getting off his knees.
    “You must have been very slow about it, Jacob,” Scrooge observed, in a business-like manner, though with humility and deference.
    “Slow!” the Ghost repeated.
    “Seven years dead,” mused Scrooge.  “And travelling all the time!”
    “The whole time,” said the Ghost.  “No rest, no peace.  Incessant torture of remorse.”
    “You travel fast?”  said Scrooge.
    “On the wings of the wind,” replied the Ghost.
    “You might have got over a great quantity of ground in seven years,” said Scrooge.
    The Ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry, and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night, that the Ward would have been justified in indicting it for a nuisance.
    “Oh!  captive, bound, and double-ironed,” cried the phantom, “not to know, that ages of incessant labour, by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed.  Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness.  Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused!  Yet such was I!  Oh!  such was I!”
    “But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
    “Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again.  “Mankind was my business.  The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.  The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
    It held up its chain at arm’s length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.
    “At this time of the rolling year,” the spectre said “I suffer most.  Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode!  Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!”

    Comment by D. Stall — August 14, 2012 @ 10:42 am

  15. Oh, so this is how it went. The guy changed his first name? Abandoned his children? What a disillusioned man. Therapy would have helped him a lot. I’m assuming he didn’t go. There is no person that can fix or fill the empty hole in the heart. But oh, how we wish it would. A good therapist would have slapped him upside the head and filled him in on the reality of life. Man, what a crappy deal. Really crappy. I’m sure midlife had something to do with it.

    I believe you mentioned you forgave the guy and I’m glad of that. I’m not absolutely sure you meant this guy. Sometimes you write in code. But, knowing you, it was this guy. Good on ya, Ira.

    Comment by Francine — July 24, 2014 @ 1:54 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

XHTML ( You can use these tags):
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> .