Freedom and The Moon​

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

May 18, 2023

Earlier this week, I was at my cousin’s house for some dinner and quality time. While using her bathroom, I read a quote she had hanging on the wall. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. The quote was:

“With freedom, flowers, books, and the moon, who could not be perfectly happy?” (Oscar Wilde, De Profundis)

This quote comes from a letter written by Oscar while he was imprisoned in 1897. Before he wrote that line, he wrote about not being upset if he were not invited to a party anymore. He declared his contentment at simply being free, smelling flowers, reading books, and seeing the moon. He also mentions in this letter that prison has changed him. When he first went in, he was angry and bitter about the circumstance. But after spending almost a year imprisoned, he was able to find humanity in its purest form. He was able to realize why Jesus Christ loved sinners.

Reading about Oscar Wilde’s prison experience reminds me of some other phenomenal people with similar messages. One of my favorite hip hop artists, Christopher Wallace, found his voice in prison. One of my favorite politicians and activists, Nelson Mandela, found his calling while in prison. Even Malcolm X has a prison story that helped shape him into the man he grew to be.


Perhaps one of the reasons these men were transformed was due to the books and content they consumed while incarcerated. They had free time to learn new things. They used their time to reflect and find a passion. There’s something extremely powerful about submitting to your isolation and learning to cope with the situation around you. If you remain bitter and angry, you may never learn your purpose. But if you commit to learning more and finding your voice, you can move mountains upon your release. As Oscar was also known for saying, “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

We all have patterns of behavior. That’s part of having a brain. We all need to feel connection and security to truly thrive. But to be connected and secure with another person, you first have to be connected and secure with yourself. And sometimes it takes harsh lessons to reveal your inner voice.

Our world would be a different place without the men I mentioned in this article. But my world would be a different place without my self-love and my connection with my cousin – and her bathroom quotes.