Freedom – Just Another Word?

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

five alligators

five alligators

If you are at the top of the food chain, you have seemingly unlimited freedom.

birds on sandbank

birds on sandbank

“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

marathon runners

marathon runners

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

cold water splashing

cold water splashing

boots left behindLuckily, their parents didn’t prevent them from leaving their shoes behind and from splashing around in the cold water.  They had so much fun chasing the waves and each other!



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.


About Beauty Along the Road

A blog about discovering beauty in all its ordinary and extraordinary manifestations.
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26 Responses to Freedom – Just Another Word?

  1. ladysighs says:

    Thank you for giving so many thoughts to ponder. Freedom will be on my mind all day …… for many days.


  2. You’ve given us much to contemplate on a subject so many take for granted, Annette.


  3. Wow! This is so profound. It gives me so much to think about. Excellent post, Annette.


  4. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on freedom, and the photos are delightful, especially the children playing in the surf. 🙂


  5. glendanp says:

    This is a powerful post! Wow! Reminded me of one of the Sheros of my youth– “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose, Nothing don’t mean nothing honey if it ain’t free . . . ” –Janis Joplin


  6. bythebriny says:

    It may be just an illusion, but to me it seems we’re losing more of our freedoms every day. Thoughtful post, and I just love the photo of the white bird.


  7. Not only thoughtful, but very well expressed. Thanks for taking the time to put this excellent post together.


  8. Great food for thought, Annette. Freedom is a tough thing to really achieve, isn’t it? If we all could just be who we really are, and celebrate that and survive on it, wouldn’t it be amazing? “Letting go…” I love that quote. 🙂


  9. Loved the eclectic photo album and your musings….


  10. You have beautifully captured with your collection of photos and words the kinds of things I often think about. (probably too often). “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…” I can so relate to this and often think about cancelling my two newspaper subscriptions.


  11. Seriously beautiful and rich. The shots are amazing! I love how you pieced this together. Atwood’s quote is something. You offer a fresh perspective on the ordinariness I’d explored in the summer series on feeling like an outsider. I hadn’t added freedom to the equation. Thanks for such a thoughtful post. I am wondering what in your personal life prompted this post. ^ ^ But you don’t need to say. So nice to be back. =)



    • Hi Diana – you might also enjoy my post on “Belonging” (just put that word in the search function). Re: what prompted this post – the many events around the world and especially lately in the US re: police brutality, and my own ambivalence about how or even whether to celebrate holidays I no longer believe in; friendships with people from different walks of life and religious traditions also often touch on this concept of “Belonging.” Lots more to it – it would require a long post on my personal history and I am not sure I am quite ready for that 🙂


  12. tree girl says:

    Hi Annette, your post reminds me of some writing I stumbled upon this week…


    As I went to church this week for carols and Christmas Day sermon, I reflected on both my ‘white privilege’ and ‘Christian privilege’. I thought about how truly free I am.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on freedom.


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