Ok, so it's my birthday, and I'm thinking about this panopticon concept (go figure), and I suddenly realize (actually, it's been brewing for years, but I've never put pen to paper)... I have a Panopticon set up INSIDE MY VERY SOUL that monitors every single decision I make in this chain of choices called Life! And you know what?... I'VE BUILT IT MYSELF!
Now, admittedly, supplies for it's construction have been brought in from all over, every time and place, and they're still coming onto the site daily. But I alone am the one erecting the overall structure and making sure it functions as designed. I alone lay stone upon heavy stone. I alone install every all-exposing window. I alone set up all the necessary furniture to make the overlords comfortable in the central observation tower.
And in conjunction (Jeremy Bentham would be so proud!), I've put in what I call the Panaudiocon, a fantastic speaker system that ensures I can hear clearly, from any cell I may be occupying, every word my observers say to me. And the Panaudiocon works on the same principal as the Panopticon: once the controlling voices have been set in motion and I am hearing them on continual loop, I will begin to repeat everything they say concerning myself and my world, like a mantra. Now the beauty of it is, this lifetime of voices can be brought to a complete silence, and I won't know the difference because (wait for it...) I have taken over their audio input WITH MY OWN VOICE! I am now saying to and about myself everything everyone else has said to and about me! Brilliant, don't you think?
It's a perfectly controlled enclosed environment, and it's all mine!
There's just one question, though, and it's been nagging at me for a long time. You see, my Panopticon has no doors... I can leave any time I want.
So why do I choose to limit my life to the confines of my cell?
Let's look at this a minute -
I am surrounded by windows, so anyone and everyone can observe me. But not only can they see in, I can see out, and I never actually see anyone sitting on that nice furniture I put in the central tower. Is it possible that maybe I'm not really being watched at all?... maybe? And when I look through the glass in the other direction, away from the central tower, I can see a whole world of choices just outside my cell.
Furthermore, I'm not even sure there are any other occupants in my Panopticon. Could I be in solitary confinement?... SELF-IMPOSED solitary confinement?
Ok, so there are no doors to keep me locked up, no one to monitor my every move, no one else here but me, and a whole world is waiting outside...
Ah, but I almost forgot... My Panaudiocon! That super-duper 7.1 surround-sound you-can-hear-a-pin-drop speaker system I installed! Hey, come to think of it, the initial component of the system - my heart-and-soul receiver - was installed even before I was born. And ever since then, all these incoming audio signals have been blasting me, and they never let up. Never! And now, with my fancy speakers, I can hear those crystal-clear high-fidelity sound waves better and better with each passing year, enabling me to mantra back to myself every helpful suggestion, every nuanced encouragement, every just-my-opinion, every whispered disappointment, every friendly infliction, every back-handed compliment, every empty affection, every sincere affectation.
And these audio signals bounce around endlessly within my Panopticon walls to such an extent that, even if my hunch is correct and no one is in the central tower watching my every move, the voices they've left behind will surely weigh in heavily on the one choice I am confronted with every day, all day... my decision to walk out of this place, or to settle in for the long haul. Should I confront the fearful unknown and try to find a home outside these walls? Should I heed a lifetime of authoritative cautionary audio signals telling me that out there is for someone else? Will I truly find freedom if I leave this place; will I lose everything if I go? Will I be a traitorous fool if I leave all these voices behind; will I lose everything if I stay?
So it's been a heavy birthday, even if it hasn't been one of those landmark birthdays. Hey, even Tuesday can be a stand-out day, depending on what's up with Monday and Wednesday, right?