"No man is free who is not master of himself.” ~~ Epictetus (A.D. 60-110)
What you are about to read may sound like the most selfish, egotistical outlook you have ever heard of and it may be. The truth is I have always been very attracted to freedom. I don’t just mean freedom as an American or in a patriotic way, but personal freedom and all the ways it touches me. Like the need for air, I need freedom. For all those other Aquarians out there, I’m sure you understand what I mean.
At first I thought my definition of freedom was absence of obligation — but actually some obligations I welcome (to my work, my development, my Spiritual practices). So perhaps it is only those ‘obligations’ or commitments I choose freely that allows me freedom. No ‘have-to’. Freedom is the absence of restraint in choices, feeling unburdened — the freedom to freely choose.
Obviously in order to have this type of freedom there are things I think I need to have in place, like survival needs met — food, shelter, clothing, love, health, healthcare.
How does freedom relate to time? The freedom to be unoccupied, to be a leisure is a big one. Having been a high achiever, ‘a doer’ all my life, I often felt guilty when I was unoccupied. No more. What is important now is that my time is mine — I can choose to use it wisely or not. I even have the freedom to make my own schedule. To decide each day and each week what I chose to do and how full I choose to make it.
How does freedom relate to space? It means the freedom to have my own space (office, home) — orderly, beautiful, enough closet space, lovely garden, etc. So, I’m spoiled - I’ll admit it. I do have others that spoil me on occasion, but I’m certainly able to take up where they leave off.
Where is the freedom in relationships? The freedom to spend time with those I find interesting, bright, loving and fun. To work with those I to choose to work with and to honor, respect and learn even from those I choose not to spend time with.
Why is any of this important? Victor Frankl says in “Man’s Search for Meaning” that while in the concentration camp they could take away his liberty (by confining his physical presence) but they could never take away his freedom because they couldn’t control his mind. The first amendment gives us freedom of speech. What gives us freedom of thought? We each control our own minds — only us. So perhaps that is where the essence of freedom lies. Sometimes we ALLOW situations, people, and events to control our thoughts, but we still have choice. Perhaps it’s not so much what is going on in our lives but the thoughts or the attitude we hold about them.
Of all the people I have interviewed on freedom, it always seems to come back to one word: choice.
I’d love to hear your comments on freedom.
Copyright by Judy Irving, 2002. All rights reserved.
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