Now that she had nothing to lose, she was free.
― Paulo Coelho,
If freedom was just about having choices, shouldn’t we all feel free? After all we all have choices to make at almost any given situation. If that’s what freedom is, do you feel free?
And what exactly is feeling free, when so much feels like out of our control? When you choose to diet and exercise, is it because you really enjoy doing it or because your health and maybe some insecurities about your image demand it? Or maybe that’s the only solution dictated by your environment. If you lived in nature and grew your food, would you be thinking about going to gym or fighting with yourself not to eat that donut? How can we talk about freedom, when we make our choices from the ones that are available to us due to our circumstances? The family we are born to, the country we grew up in, the environment, the genes that make us who we are, our physical appearance, our gender and so on create a reality in which we find ourselves without choice. So whatever our choice is in life, will always be a product of what shapes us, if only we identify with any of them.
Freedom in the most raw sense, only is possible NOT when you have a choice but don’t have to make one. This premise might seem to be a conflict, but in fact it’s the only way to being free. I’m not talking about small choices of our every day life, like choosing a red sweater over a black one, or using an alternative route to go to work that day. I’m more interested in the choices that largely impact our lives. The ones that we make not because we’re free but we’re forced to make because of all our attachments, insecurities, and associations.
Dictionaries tell us freedom is “the power or right to do as one wants.” Do you see any choice here? Because if what I want is my guide, then how can I ever choose something else over that? Assuming that we always know what we want at a particular moment, then there’s no choice, and realizing this, is ironically the only choice one will ever make.
When all the learning, data, doctrines, definitions, norms dictate our thinking, our choices are also made by them. Freedom is a state of mind that’s fluid, organic, where nothing is predefined, predetermined. In the state of true freedom, there’s nothing but “now.” Not our past experiences or fear of future can impact what is in every given moment. So what about the values that stop us from harming each other, if true freedom has no room for dogma? When our actions aren’t bound by others’ perceptions of us, a false sense of identity, they come from a pure state where there’s clarity and peace. Where we don’t try to be worthy of the success and happiness that were defined and formulated by the common view. In the state of freedom, all these labels and perceptions neither bother nor motivate us. We’re only moved with what we want in deep down.
This state doesn’t promise rewards or punishments in the most common definitions of them. No, freedom comes with responsibility to own it all.
You see, state of freedom itself might be fluid and simple but not the journey to it. We have to shed all our fears, conceptions, perceptions, beliefs and opinions. We have to give up chasing after the cheese and escape the maze. Now, that is the price tag of freedom, if you will. It’s an unknown territory, not tested, not guaranteed, not regulated. We go there at our own risk, with the responsibility that we can’t hold on to what used to motivate us before.
Freedom isn’t free. You give up so much to attain it. You might need to dispose one by one; your comfort zone, your status, your popularity, your sense of security and sometimes your most intimate, most rooted beliefs. And it doesn’t promise a big finale with fireworks and standing ovation at the end. But, no innovation, genius idea, entrepreneurship, invention, cultural shift came to existence without this state of mind. Besides all the greatness that might or might not come in this state, a life that dares to define itself is worth the responsibility that comes with it.