I have been mulling over the concept of “freedom” for a while. It keeps popping back into my consciousness as prisoners are taken or freed, workers go on strike to fight for better working conditions and pay, holiday frenzy is taking over, starlets take off their clothes to get attention, mailing gifts to another country now requires computerized tracking at the post office, our e-mails and phone calls are subject to Big Brother surveillance, whistle blowers are forced into exile, unarmed citizens are killed by police, and powerful corporations buy the right to pollute our air, soil, and food. Where does one person’s freedom begin and another’s end?
Where are we in denial about our freedom being compromised, if not taken away, through overt political actions or unexamined familial or cultural values?
“Niemand ist mehr Sklave, als der sich für frei hält, ohne es zu sein. None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Elective Affinities
If you are at the top of the food chain, you have seemingly unlimited freedom.
“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
If you are one of many, maybe you can “disappear” in the crowd, experience the kind of freedom that comes with being ordinary? Does that kind of fitting in not result in the conformity mentioned by JFK? “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” ― John F. Kennedy
Subtle and overt pressures for conformity by family and society can severely limit an individual’s ability to develop their unique potential: “The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.” ― Jim Morrison
It appears that there may be a separation between outer and inner freedom. Our external circumstances may limit our choices, may force a certain degree of conformity, nudge us into life choices we might not have made if left to our own resources, or blatantly make choices for us trampling our rights and free will.
True freedom, inner freedom, is not affected by external circumstances. “Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation
When I look up into the trees, watch the birds fly, listen to the sounds of waves, I feel free and at peace. When I listen to the news, care about what happens to others and the world we live in, I feel un-free and burdened. This freedom thing has never been easy….
For more Freedom posts, check out Ailsa’s Where is My Backpack.