The Dichotomy of a Music Box
I am a music box. Unlike any instrument, I play my own music. I am not a woodwind or a string, or a brass that has air pass its nose. If anything, I am a drum. A cadent beat, that stirs the quiet but somehow keeps it calm and ordered. Some have called me a nightingale locked in a cage. But I have not been captured. I was given my life and have never known a world outside of my own walls. I am here, as long as you are there, and that is the balance of the dichotomy of a music box. Perhaps it is that constancy that keeps me. For I have long since kept wonder and curiosity at bay with fear and apprehension. The truth that I am so afraid to find, is one that so many already live, but do not acknowledge; that the world, the entire land and sea and air together; all of their countries, languages, societies, and classes, are only more cages. Cages within cages. If I am ever to ponder freedom, it must truly be free. So until I have assurance, I wait and help my listeners forget their own prisons.
No matter where I am; beach, a forest, a meadow or a mountainside, the rhythm is the same. As true as a dutch-clock, I chime to the tune of a circle. You wind my gears and my cylindrical heart will sing the same song always. But each time I play, there is deeper memory. The minds of all the fingers that ever wound me and let me spin have grown old. Some unable to wind me ever again. They now know the life of a music box. They now know the prison they lived in.
There are many who hear the song and forget. Then some months later, perhaps on a still restless night, after tossing and turning, awake, like a wind that cannot decide on a path, they will stop, stand, and remember me; the music box. Their tired eyes will crawl across the room for comfort and be drawn in time to the window. For there shine the stars, spinning just like me. And on the window-sill, a silhouette is cast. A black cat on a still night. But unwavering and silent, I wait. And then, for want of company they come to my side and twist the delicate knob on my wall. They twist and the gears tighten. They twist again, and again, the gears tense together preparing for the release. Then they set me down and return to the comfort of their sheets, and listen to the song they had forgotten. They don't recognize it, though it is simple. But they feel the memories. There is some small magic in a music box; in its song. No matter how much dust gathers on its face. No matter how many times it has been wound, or how many years it has been left alone, it will return, in crystal quality like the sharp wind over a great sea. Fresh but distant, always.
I have a purpose for which I was created. And all my life, I have fulfilled that purpose. But all the while, I have wondered, through every click and turning of the wheel, if there was something else. If there was a life beyond the music and unwinding. What if I was once wound and did not sing? What if I was cast to the ground in fury and melted into a thousand droplets of song that slithered out onto the open patio to join the other drops of an early april shower? What if my song changed. What if the notes spoke a different tune than before? Would they notice; would they care?
These thoughts manifest themselves when I am most alone. No one can throw a music box away, but they can leave it. Unwittingly, they might claim, but still they forget. And on the white wooden window-sill I sit. I listen to the birds outside. Listen to the wind in the trees, and the bees all going and coming and circling and circling. All just like me. But away from me. I don't know what I want. But I at least know that I want. And that is more freedom than they have. If they knew that they wanted anything, they are free and can get it. But they never do. They are their own jail-guards and lock themselves chain by chain away in this world and into themselves. At least I still have the will to desire. I am inside looking out, and I can be in love with the outside so long as I am here. I know a cage. The moment I am free, I would realize that there is no free. There is only what one would have that he cannot. That he can live and pine for his whole life without getting. A dream is the only freedom there is. So I choose to live in the cage. I choose to sing for whenever anyone feels as lonely as I, and so winds my gears for the company of remembrance. Like a gravestone, I stand as a marker to those laid to rest. A passerby will look at me, inspect me and perhaps even hear my song. He will know it means something but not what. He knows it is pretty.
Only I know my song. Really know it. Many can hear it, but they forget the sound; the rhythm. They forget because they do not know what it means. I know. I know that I want and that is the story of my song. That is why so many hear but cannot know. Because they do not know that they want. Some of them don't even want at all. They just exist. They think that I am the same. That I sit and play music when they wind me, and let them hear my song and wonder, and keep them company and make their heart heavy. But that is only because the song is the same that was in them long ago, when they were children. That is its familiarity. The unfulfilled longing. What they have felt but no longer connect to. We'll all continue to tick and unwind until that day when there are none left to wind us. But the music box will continue to hope and believe in the outside world, though not test it. It is there, as long as I am here, and that is the balance of the dichotomy of the world.