Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Dandelion and The Orchid

I asked Bruce Bryant to share some thoughts. This email arrived today.

Bruce Bryant and his parents

While millions of Americans find it difficult to cope with self-isolation during this COVID-19 Pandemic, I often wonder how those isolated in solitary confinement in prisons across the country are coping with the pandemic. 

Wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for the past twenty-six years, I had the misfortune of finding myself in solitary confinement for a minor incident, while at Shawangunk Correctional Facility (Wallkill, NY). The incident occurred on December 22, 2007, at around 8 AM. I woke up, brushed my teeth and used the bathroom as I normally do every morning. Shortly after doing this an officer came to the cell I was occupying and told me I caused a flood in the cell on the tier beneath me, when I flushed the toilet. Astonished, I asked the officer, how did I do that? He then claimed he had announced early in the morning that no one should use the toilet because they were working on the cells on the tier below. I apologized and told the officer I didn't hear him announce that, and besides, why didn't they just turn off the water. He then stated I would be given a misbehavior report. On January 2nd, 2008, I attended a hearing for the misbehavior report, I was found guilty and sentenced to 90 days in the solitary housing unit, also known as the box. 
My first day locked in 24 hours a day, I realized I would have to get use to eating less food since they would be feeding me small trays of food in the cell. So I decided I would fast and pray for the first few days, so my stomach would get use to a small amount of food. 

The next thing I did was get a couple of books out of my property. I chose 
"Man's Search For Meaning" by Viktor E. Frankl.  I began reading this book and really thinking about its concepts. I was introduced to logotherapy, which is the idea that despite our circumstances we can still be driven to find meaning in our lives. Also the idea that when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are often called to change ourselves. Even in suffering we can find a meaningful existence. 

During these times of isolation I would encourage people to read, read, and get to know yourself. One of the things I realized in isolation was isolation introduces us to ourselves. How we respond to crisis is more important than the crisis itself. 
I also think about the analogy of the Dandelion and the Orchid. The Dandelion thrives in any environment, while the Orchid requires a particular type of environment to thrive. However, we all have a little Dandelion in us, we can thrive even in the midst of this pandemic, but we must choose to do so.

April 8, 2020

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