Freedom, You Are Arriving

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
~ Nelson Mandela

In an audio meditation series that accompanies her book Real Happiness, Sharon Salzberg reflects on the title subject. The urge to be happy is rightful, she says, but sometimes we fail to understand where it is found.

Fuzzy terms we all believe we intrinsically understand but can’t readily define tend to trip us up.

In America the closest thing we have to a sacred term is freedom but you don’t have to go far for proof that we readily conflate freedom of speech and freedom from consequence. Our fuzzy term confusions have been amplified recently as Trump and his most passionate followers have celebrated violent, divisive, crude, and belittling language with something of a religious fervor.

Time after time, you hear ardent supporters say that they like that Trump because he isn’t bound by social convention, by politeness. What they love about him is that he says whatever is on his mind. I suspect that what these supporters actually love is that Trump says what is on their minds: a much darker issue.

Bragging about sexual conquests fueled by fame, deriding whole nations and religions, dodging taxes, threatening to jail opponents for revenge, disrespecting the media for doing their jobs — this is not freedom. This is acting like an asshole.

If this appeals to you, then I suggest you look in the mirror. Decouple that attraction from lofty notions of freedom and begin to do the hard work of understanding why you envy those words. Trust me, it’s grueling and ugly work but ultimately the only thing that can set you free.

I heard a priest say that the best definition he’s ever heard of freedom is the opportunity to do the right thing. Next time you look at your broad striped and bright stars or bumper sticker magnet, think about what you will do with today’s opportunity to do the right thing.

In that vein, here is one of my favorite poems to kick off the weekend. It’s gray outside my window now but the slant and tilt of fall fading into winter brings us a lot of opportunity for great skies.

The Journey
~David Whyte

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Recent Great Sky, as seen from my driveway

painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
enscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

first, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes
of your life.

You are not leaving
you are arriving.

2 thoughts on “Freedom, You Are Arriving”

  1. I love the definition of freedom as ‘an opportunity to do the right thing.’ I think the most distressing thing about the current political climate is to see how many people appear not even to know what the ‘right thing’ is anymore or have redefined it to mean something entirely different, something that is so wrong, so devoid of a moral compass. Stephen Colbert recently explained that execrable term, ‘alt-right,’ on his show with this: “Think about what is right. Then think about the alternative to that.” xo, Kathi

Comments are closed.