Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet

Cameron Conaway is not a warrior poet. He is the Warrior Poet. I strongly recommend his memoir, which will be published next month. I reviewed an early draft of the manuscript when I was finishing my employment at the University of Arizona.

Caged is described at goodreads as “a captivating account of a young man who overcomes a family background and his own inner torment by learning to channel his frustrations into the physical world of mixed martial arts fighting and the emotional world of poetry and writing. The result is a literary, lyrically-crafted philosophical journey into the heart, mind, and soul of a modern-day warrior.”

“Conaway’s book takes you inside the soul of a man with the mind of a poet and the instincts of a fighter. It teaches the value of personal reflection, how life’s most painful moments can lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of human nature, and just what is possible when optimism and determination combine to overcome tough odds.”

I worked with Conaway in several capacities, including as supervisor, mentor, co-teacher, and co-learner. He became, and remains, a dear and trusted colleague and friend, as I described in an earlier essay in this space. As such, this review is hardly “objective.” More accolades, undoubtedly penned by people with more intelligence and more objectivity than me, can be found at Conaway’s website.

The book provides a personal example of thriving through hard times. Gems of personal philosophy are encountered along the way. Consider, for example, Conaway’s impression of religious belief, as revealed in a couple quotes:

We give up our backs and allow religious myths to apply the rear naked choke to our minds.

Religious books are the most tremendously successful and inspiring books of all time. Millions of people around the world live good, generous, and pious lives with the help of them. Millions of others, though, take a different route or simply can’t separate life from fiction. They believe ancient myths are absolute truths and they cast their political votes by these “truths,” they even shame and set flame to homes of those who don’t believe in these “truths.” Some strap themselves with bombs and fly airplanes into buildings. They take whatever book they have that is deemed “religious” and they consider themselves “Pro Life” because of it, or they believe virgins will await them after death, or they see homosexuals as the scum of the earth, or they believe God will take care of and infinitely, divinely, beautifully replenish the environment as we mine and dump and pump and pollute at will. They take this book and, when they are voted into office because of their belief in it, they use it to (mis)shape our country, and, in turn, the entire world. How do I know? Because like every other human I’ve asked myself how I am here and why I am here and I’ve felt the pull to simply make shit up. Much of religion grew from an honest attempt to understand these fundamental questions. Much of religion grew from a difficult, good-intentioned, thoughtful process called “Making Shit Up.” Unfortunately, even honesty can’t turn shit to wine. So what happens when people take shit from others and fully believe it? Some good shit, sure. But not always. And regardless, it’s still shit.

In short, this is a witty, thoughtful, and highly readable book. It takes individual experiences and ties them to the world. The author knows where we are, and where we’re headed, with respect to our humanity, the industrial economy, and the living planet. In describing Conaway’s life (so far), Caged tells us much about our own struggles as we seek to live whole, balanced lives. In revealing himself, the Warrior Poet reveals the world.

Comments 17

  • Rick Perry

    ” Millions of others, though, take a different route or simply can’t separate life from fiction”.

    Sounds just like him.

    Double D

  • God To Punish Wall Street

    “For they have sown the wind,and they shall reap the wirldwind” Hosea 8:7 (pun intended)

    So all together now:

    Double D

  • Actually I think the people who live truly good lives would do so without religious books. While religion can seem innocuous in some aspects some of the innocuous parts can have repercussions that largely go unseen.

    For instance obeying your parents is by and large a good thing to teach children. When they are young they need to be warned about the dangers of the road, what things are good to eat and what are dangerous etc. But impressionable who have in their nature to want to please adults might say obey their mother when she tells them to lie about why she isn’t at church. (lying wrong, obeying parent right = mental confusion – I know). Those seemingly innocuous mother’s day sermons that paint ALL mothers as paragons of saintliness can make a child feel they must be the one who is bad when it is actually Mom who is certifiably insane.

    As we have learned many young children in attempting to please or fend off the anger of a priest or preacher have yielded to being abused and then find themselves silent and in a moral abyss. Their parents say obey the priest. The Bible says obey your parents. The Bible says don’t do what you just did the the priest.

    In the Christian fold the preaching of need for salvation because of original sin can in some children create this deep sense of guilt that impairs them mentally. These are the children who would likely be “good” regardless of whether raised religiously or not. So the mild people pleasing child instead of feeling good about themselves, feels they can never be good enough.

    I am not convinced that religion has much of a good side at all. It supposedly comforts the saved so that they believe they are going to heaven, but it seems the saved are trying to avoid death as much as or more than the unsaved in my experience.

    I find less and less in religions of any sort to give them any sort of pass at all.

  • Posted on the last discussion at the end – per Irene may be really really really bad, especially if it it hits NYC.
    “The floodwalls protecting Manhattan are only five feet above mean sea level.”

  • Also posted at the end of the last discussion, Danny Jowenko, the demolition expert who asserted that WTC7 was controlled demolition before knowing what building it was, has died in a car accident a few weeks before Architects and Engineers for 9/11 truth unveil their new video.

  • Off topic …

    I just read something fascinating in “Overloading Australia: How governments and media dither and deny on population” by Mark O’Connor and William J. Lines. It ties in with previous posts.

    “Tim Flannery has pointed out that if, hypothetically, the human race had begun from just two first parents just 10,000 years ago – and if they had inceased ever since then at an average of 1% a year, the human race would now be a ball of flesh vastly larger than the solar system.

    “… Assume 1% growth (less than Australia’s current rate). Then humanity would double every 70 years. In 10,000 years the number of 70 year periods is 143. So our final population is: two people doubled some 143 times, or two to the 144th power. That’s the sort of number that astronomers speak of in private as ‘very, very big’ – bigger, for instance than the total number of seconds that have elapsed since the beginning of the universe.

    “Such a figure is simply impossible. So is this a pointless hypothetical calculation? No, it carries the most stunning and poignant human meaning. What it shows is how well the agents of death and disease have done their work. A healthy and well-fed human female is capable of bearing 8 to 12 babies, and many women in past ages did so. At that rate, human increase would have been more like 10% a year than the mere 1% we have assumed.

    “Yet for most of the time that humans have been on earth our numbers have been as rigorously kept down as those of any other species.”

    So in the absence of modern birth control methods and medicine, losing most of your children before they reach adulthood will not only be part of our new reality come Collapse, it will also be a necessary tragedy to keep the human species in check as it does with all other species.

  • The comment on population & growth by Nicole again shows how growth is the antithesis of sustainability.

  • Nicole, the article you quote reminds me of the excellent video series by Professor Al Bartlett on exponential growth. You have probably seen it already:

    I watch the series every so often just to remind myself again just how asinine are our leaders every time they speak of “sustainable growth”.

  • I understand that some of the permaculture ideas were based on Farmers of Forty Centuries. I found the book to be very informative on how China and other countries were recycling all the nutrients back to the land in ways that were more sustainable than Western farming. They were an amazing culture. But the problem remains that when you force the land to its ultimate best use you just increase the population. Even at the time the book was written the hills were beginning to be denuded and erosion starting in. While it is imaginable that one could do sustainable agriculture it appears to be the nature of humans to constantly push the sustainable to the unsustainable. It also appears that as farming increases and hunter-gathering decreases civilizations form and they have never been sustainable.

    Dr. House, ditto – the Albert Bartlett vid is a must watch.

  • Fits with Nicole’s off topic:

    Anyway I saw a calculation years ago that got us to the point where is earth was a solid mass of human flesh expanding at the speed of light!
    Hard to beat that.

  • My nephew, raised by my atheist brother became a Christian as an adult. He has 9 kids. I wonder if he aligned with the movement described below. My brother fled to Canada during Vietnam. I haven’t had a whole heap of contact with my nephew so I don’t know if he is part of this movement. He is a good parent from what I have seen of him and his kids, but still what can he be thinking…

    Quiverfull is a movement among some conservative evangelical Christian couples chiefly in the United States, but with some adherents in Canada,[1] Australia, New Zealand, Britain and elsewhere.[2] It promotes procreation, and sees children as a blessing from God,[2][3][4] eschewing all forms of birth control, including natural family planning and sterilization.[5][6] Adherents are known as “quiver full”, “full quiver”, “quiverfull-minded”, or simply “QF” Christians. Some refer to the Quiverfull position as Providentialism,[7] while other sources have referred to it as a manifestation of natalism.[8][9] Currently several thousand Christians worldwide identify with this movement.[5] It began to receive significant attention in the U.S. national press in 2004….According to journalist Kathryn Joyce, writing in the magazine The Nation: “[T]he Quiverfull mission is rooted in faith, the unseen, its mandate to be fruitful and multiply,” even if it “has tangible results as well.”[5] Although Joyce claims that “Population is a preoccupation for many Quiverfull believers… [and] [t]he motivations aren’t always racist, but the subtext of “race suicide” is often there.”[5] Still, she asserts, “This is what Quiverfull is about: faith, pure and simple.”[5]

  • Kathy:

    You have one amazing story after another.

  • ‘Much of religion grew from a difficult, good-intentioned, thoughtful process called “Making Shit Up”‘ -cameron conaway

    not sure how well intentioned or thoughtful the process was, but definitely ‘making shit up’ has played a significant role.

    ‘Those seemingly innocuous mother’s day sermons that paint ALL mothers as paragons of saintliness can make a child feel they must be the one who is bad when it is actually Mom who is certifiably insane. ‘-kathy

    our culture paints itself, tradition, ‘authority’ as virtuous, and human nature as ‘sinful’/shameful. indoctrinated adults seeking to indoctrinate their children are, as u point out in the case of ‘mothers’, glorified. disobedient/rebellious children simply behaving naturally in the face of oppression are vilified. all must be domesticated to better serve elite interests.

    ‘I am not convinced that religion has much of a good side at all.’

    if it brings sheople together in a non-dogmatic way it can be good. otherwise, i totally concur. sheople need to find ways to bond communally that don’t involve myths which should never be taken literally or dogma which promote narrow minded bigotry and intolerance. (assuming sheople aren’t slated for extinction relatively soon)

    thanks for the nice book review and your ongoing life of service, guy.

  • Thanks Dr. H for reminding me of Albert Bartlett. I had watched his vidoes, but had forgotten. He really is great.

    We have neighbours who belong to a Christian group – don’t know which one. They have 7 children – wonderful young people. Parents did a great job in raising them. And all but two of those kids have kids of their own. Despite my admiration in how well they raised their children, I don’t think anyone should have that many children, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they had all those children to overwhelm the heathens amongst us.

    How can people be so blinkered as to have 19 children and not feel a qualm of guilt of what they are doing to our world?

  • “[T]he Quiverfull mission is rooted in faith, the unseen, its mandate to be fruitful and multiply,”

    i hope i’m not violating a dead horse by repeatedly pointing out that dogmatic faith is stupid/crazy. there’s a rough inverse relationship between reasoning ability, a critical factor in intelligence, and dogmatic faith. perhaps many of these sheople are born with above average potential, but immersion/indoctrination with dogmatic nonsense throughout childhood stifles development? how else to explain the surreal phenomenon of legions of sheople who continue as adults to believe in one form or another of it, and who believe they’re being moral by subjecting their own children to it? how else to explain the common ignorance/dogmatic delusion all around us?

    i live across the street from a christian family who are like nicole’s neighbors from her description in that they’re devout (but they only have 3 young adult children, so i suspect they used contraception most of the time.) from what little interaction i’ve had with all of them, they’re pleasant and friendly. i just can’t be around these sheople very much, it makes me paranoid how crazy/ignorant they are, and how typical. i can’t broach the subject successfully, and i can’t let it go, either, so i keep my distance. i feel this way towards a good majority of the sheople i ‘know’, dogmatically deluded in various ways and degrees, prideful bigots with twisted morality, however nice they may appear to often be.

    we so need a religion that encourages/nurtures critical thinking, that questions authority. we need more rational thinkers curious for non-dogmatic knowledge and understanding. perhaps for countless past generations dogma addicts have been faithfully procreating at rates higher than free-thinkers. perhaps this has led to progressively less average reasoning ability in each succeeding generation. perhaps this is how we now find ourselves in this surreal predicament, cassandras lost in a masquerade of idiocy/insanity, seeing the abyss ahead with awesome terror while it’s bau all around, especially among elites/executives.

    if i seem in a sour mood, blame it on cj werleman. i’ve been reading his wickedly funny books examining/analyzing the bible based on what it actually says. much putrid, insane, ghastly idiocy is contained in this ‘good book’! (sigh) why can’t sheople be more rational? why must repulsive violently insane dogmatic garbage be the basis for ‘spirituality’ or religion? why must ‘good’ people be spoiled with it?