My first thought was negative: assuming there remains a defacto moratorium on executions I pray I’m not still on death row ten, twenty or—God help us—thirty years from now. If the moratorium ends tomorrow at least 60 of the people I’ve come to know over two decades as my immediate family will be put to death. Not all at once or all in a year, but that is a reality of imagining any future on death row.
In here the future isn’t something many of us consider too deeply, rather we imagine lottery ticket possibilities that don’t involve dying of natural causes in prison at the ripe old age of 65 or being exterminated. To a lesser degree I imagine in ten years I could reach a minimum security prison where work release, contact visits and maybe a day pass are possibilities. To a greater degree I day dream about the street and what that means: of holding a normal job, paying bills, owning a cat and dog, of having a girlfriend or wife and kids . . . These ideas bring a modicum of peace now because they provide a means of escape from a place there is no escaping. If I actually reached these ideas then, yes, I would have an abundance of peace, accomplishment, relaxation and be deeply involved with the community.
The coldness of reality is that life in prison doesn’t get better in measurements of decades. This life is compartmentalized into increments—an edible meal, a drama-free day, a good book, a dreamless night of sleep, a productive day of writing and exercise, maybe even a good movie without the interruption of a shakedown or some hyena in the dayroom that wants an argument.
Ten years? Twenty or thirty years? God help me I don’t want to think about next year and all of the tomorrows and attitude that brings, let alone the years to follow. My sanity is maintained in the moment because it is the only thing I have. My peace is stolen between the seconds and minutes of hateful people who have no respect for the next man. I relax when sleep claims consciousness. Being centered, to me, means living in the moment and for this particular moment I’m writing on a topic that goes against every wall making up my physical prison. There is no future here, only the days we cross off calendars and give thanks they’re over.
“Shikin Haramitsu Daikomyo”
Shikin—a greeting, sensation of harmony, perceived by the heart.
Haramitsu—wisdom from courage and effort fosters security, loyalty and faithfulness.
Daikomyo—bring respect and reliance, illumination from the inside to the outside
Taken together: every encounter is sacred and could present the one potential key to the perfection of the great universal enlightenment we seek.