Posts Tagged ‘Freedom’

Another Take on Freedom (Life’s Little Ironies)

August 9, 2012

One day back in the mid-to-late 1980s, I met an emigre couple from the Soviet Union. Having studied the Russian language in high school, I took a special interest in them. I don’t remember the details of their situation, other than that they’d become deeply dissatisfied with life in Russia and had gone to great lengths to come to the United States. When I asked them how they liked their new lives  in America, they looked at each other nervously, their eyes clearly saying, “Dare we answer him honestly?” I assured them they couldn’t possibly tell me anything that would upset me. This was the Reagan era, and I was profoundly disgusted with my country. After much reluctance on their part and much encouragement on my part, they finally managed to stammer out, “It’s so unfree here.” Not what I expected to hear! I laughed out of surprise and some confusion. I asked them to explain. They said that in the Soviet Union they could go wherever they wanted, that they could just start walking across the earth in any direction without restriction, save for, I assume, military bases and the like. But here, they were constantly encountering “no trespassing” signs and other private property issues. They said they felt like cattle being herded through a set of narrow chutes. I have never forgotten their perspective.


July 17, 2012

One of the greatest difficulties in finding agreement on what to do about the problems facing this country is our idea of “freedom.” The great majority of Americans have the simplistic idea of freedom meaning “I can do whatever I want to do”—some adding “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.” In practice, “I can do whatever I want to do” really means “I can do whatever my ego wants to do.” And that’s not freedom. That’s slavery—to your ego. The ego is wild and doesn’t give a damn about others. It wants what it wants and it wants it right now. I’m familiar with this territory. When I left home my aim was to be free to do whatever I wanted. And I pursued that goal for several years—into a great, lonely emptiness. Fortunately, I was also interested in what is true.

At this point in my life I see freedom as being free from delusion and uncontrolled desire. You have to have that interior freedom before you can really be free in the world. A man who keeps shooting up dope because he can’t make himself stop is a slave. And I think a lot of what we do in our day-to-day lives is much the same as what that dope addict is doing. Each of us is unique and we have to be who we are. But I also believe that the universe is a cosmos and when you be who you really are, you’re brought into community with others being who they really are. We’ve got to junk this idea of each of us having our own stuff, that we’re entitled to all this stuff because we worked for it. The earth can’t take it anymore. Humanity can’t take it anymore. We have to find a collectivity that is graceful and true. It can’t be enforced from the outside; it has to come from the inside. But we do have to find it. We’ll do ourselves in if we don’t. And that’s the truth.

The Republican Party’s Idea of Freedom

January 7, 2010

Stephen Gaskin once said something along the lines of, “When the Republicans talk about freedom, what they’re talking about is the freedom to loot the ship.” He said that shortly after Reagan became president, and it stayed in my mind. I return to it over and over as I see, after nearly thirty years of damage, just how accurate his description was.