When I first started this project, I did so hoping it would become a collaborative space. I wanted to provide a platform to discuss the difficult questions we all say we need to talk about but don’t necessarily have the opportunity to do so. While I have been the main contributor for some time now, collaboration is still the goal.
In this spirit, I wanted to return to the original questions posed to stimulate discussion. I realized what I was asking was rather intense, as it was forcing us to dig deeper than it often feels comfortable to do. Nevertheless, several people responded and shared a little piece of themselves they probably aren’t used to sharing.
I am quite thankful for this, for I benefited greatly from this brief look into the depths of those around me. Shortly after the buzz died down, some of those who responded reached out and told me they too enjoyed the exercise, since it gave them a new outlet for self-reflection and expression. Unfortunately, though, the dialogue stopped there.
This was truthfully quite discouraging; I believe I set my expectations too high. However, looking back, I realize it was quite unfair of me to ask people to open themselves up to the world without being willing to do the same myself. My intention behind this was to show how this project is not solely about me, which is often assumed to be the case when someone starts a blog.
Now, several months later, I’ve had a change of heart, and I thought I would share my answers to try and get a conversation going. In many ways, these thoughts and self-reflections are what motivated me to ask these questions in the first place. I hope you find them interesting.
What does it mean to be free?
Freedom. What a dense word, no? We throw it around so casually almost every day, but I often don’t stop to think how complex it really is and just how dependent our understanding of it is on what we are living in a particular moment in time.
Some days I wake and feel I can be all I want to be, free to do as I choose with this life. Other days, I rise from bed and feel suffocated, like an animal in a cage. So much is out of my control, from the food I can eat to the shelter I can occupy to the land on which I am allowed to step.
To even begin discussing freedom, we must discuss independence. How can I be free if I cannot independently gain access to the basic necessities of life? One may say this freedom comes from our work. We earn money and use it to do as we please. Sometimes I feel this, other times this path to freedom makes my life feel structured and rigid.
From this confusion I found this thought: to be free is to be free from this question, to not have to think about it. Freedom escapes a definition with words. In its purest form, it can only be felt with something more precise. Love is very similar. Both love and freedom are transcendent states that connect you to another reality. When you’re in it, you don’t question what it means, you simply live it and bask in its glory. Questioning if you are in love, if you are free, in many ways is direct proof you are not.
So by posing this question, I was in many ways professing my own feeling of being trapped. To me, freedom manifests itself as freedom from thought. When we think about something, we are removing ourselves from that experience, for thought is delayed. To put a twist on a famous saying, I think therefore I am, but I think about therefore I am not.
However, I started answering this by saying there are moments when I do feel free. On many occasions I have experienced this level of present moment awareness required to feel larger-than-life states such as freedom, love and compassion.
We must remember, though, that it requires work to reach this state. Liberating ourselves from ourselves requires dedication, commitment, discipline and many other strengths we have but often aren’t sure how to use. This confusion is largely because we, as humans, are imperfect. We make mistakes, do irrational things, get distracted easily, follow impulses and ignore instincts. These imperfections make it difficult to get where we want to go. This is often why I think I consider there to be limitations to my freedom. I have felt it and know it exists, but my imperfections make it extremely hard to attain.
Why do I live the way I live?
In many ways, I have answered both questions at once. Being imperfect is what makes life interesting and is what gives color to our experience. Things would be too easy and too boring if we just always had them. I may lament what I feel to be a lack of freedom, but as I said earlier, freedom is totally moment-dependent, for almost every instance where I feel trapped, there is another moment where I can grab the helm and set my course in whichever direction I choose.
This flip-flopping between freedom and containment is gut-wrenching. However, it is also invigorating, for knowing I am the only obstacle to my freedom, and knowing what is at stake for overcoming this gives life meaning more than any other pursuit. In this sense, living this quest to overcome the imperfections blocking my freedom is why I live the way I live.
So who’s next?
This is just my version of how to answer these questions, and every answer is going to be just that—its own unique version. That’s the beauty of reflecting like this. There is no wrong answer, and each thought adds something new to our understanding of what it means to be human.
This is the heart of this project; to create a space to swap stories, experiences, reactions and whatever else we feel like sharing. Doing this will allow us to get little snippets of each others’ lives so that we can begin the long process of understanding each other a little better, a vital first step in coexisting on this planet.
So, if you have something you’d like to share, send it in to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or simply comment below. You can answer these questions, or you can simply share a meaningful experience. It could be a funny story, a happy memory or a sad reflection. Whatever it is, we’ll be listening.
Looking forward to hearing what you have to say. As always, if you found this to be thought-provoking or remotely interesting, share it with others and let the discussion begin.