FREEDOM (original text 2012)
We don’t seem to know how to enjoy our energies without having to “do” something with them. What we can do freely becomes more important than the experience of being free.
“Freedom” is another excuse to “do” more. When we are unable to differentiate real freedom from performance, freedom becomes exhibitionism. Our world is full of such manifestations.
Freedom is a spiritual state of Being. Its experience leads to respect for all life. If we know ourselves free we feel compelled to allow others their natural rights. A spiritually free person responds to life without going into hiding or isolation. Such a person lives a process of continuous introspection, striving for purity in expression. If something is offensive, the first step in the mind of a spiritual person is to investigate what is being offended and clear any shadows from within. The finger points back to self rather than to the surrounding world. Freedom speaks through us in our silences as in our words and actions. It inspires and invites.
It is my belief that spirituality and living go hand in hand; they reflect and support one another. Spirituality lived consciously is life-affirmative. There is a great need today for the essential recognition of freedom. Buddhists call it “right action” and Christians call it “service”. It bespeaks justice, truth, and love. Gone are the days of monasteries and convents as an indulgent isolationist solution. Today, we are forced to look around us. We are obliged to act.
Unfortunately, those who take action are often those who do not know the experience of inner freedom, and those who do know keep it to themselves. Too many people prefer to force changes upon the world, rather than on themselves, reinforcing the overwhelming importance placed on the outer world. Every time we switch on a radio or glance at a newspaper, the list of atrocities only grows, forcing sensitive people to switch it off and ignore what is going on. Assured of their freedom to live life the way they choose, they settle for illusory peace and condemn the rest of the world to chaos through their inactivity. This must stop.
Awareness implies bridging the chasm that separates us from one another and from ourselves, as well as from inner and outer realities. Life, especially now, is a tremendous opportunity to learn where priorities really lie and eventually arrive at that nexus within us that determines our lasting satisfaction, not because of what surrounds us or what happens, but because “I” am happy within myself. That central focus is both the beginning and the end.
Freedom of speech and freedom of press is a wonderful thing when we compare it to the authoritarianism that has preceded us. However, freedom has progressively evolved to mean permission to say and do just about anything. Freedoms have been granted at face value without awareness of the subtleties that arise from human needs. Natural rights to Be involve the development of consciousness. Laws cannot determine consciousness; the family and individual human beings must develop it within themselves. It used to be called “conscience” and delineates the ethical limits of life.
Spiritually, “freedom” qualifies the way we perceive life and conceive ideas, the way we touch and feel everyone and everything. It underlines our understanding of life’s purpose and takes us into lifting veils to find deeper meanings. Freedom also awakens our sensibility to the invisible side of our everyday lives, what we condone, what we let slide and what we pretend is not there. The concept of “humanity” defines the broadest freedom.
Where do I go to find the privacy in thought, word or deed that is my human right? Where does it say that I have to suffer distasteful visual, auditory, olfactory and sensorial stimuli because someone else is exerting the right to express themselves? Must I be subjected to lewd lyrics simply because I enter into a department store? What do I need to do to preserve the sanctity of my body? We are living in a democracy but we are not taught discernment or discrimination. Where is the sense of public decency? And who stands for conscience?
Our parents certainly did not teach us, nor are we taught ethics in schools or religious institutions where, instead, more rules and ready-made beliefs are imposed. It is taken for granted that we will learn the value of freedom while being manipulated and shaped into patterns that are not of our free choosing.
An entire civilisation places premiums on freedom and conquest, side by side. Subjugation is disguised as concern by governments and organisations whose only interest is to perpetuate themselves. Killing goes on in the name of Eastern and Western conceptions of God and the right to self-defence. All of them exert their right to tell us how to live.
There is racial, sexual, mental and emotional slavery right at home, in marriages and in so-called friendships in the bosom of the educated Western world. We don’t need to travel far to find hunger, insanitary conditions, and poverty. A pitiful contribution of leftovers is thought to absolve the more affluent members of society from any guilt. Wealthy plutocrats emigrate to eager countries that help them avoid taxes at home. Political, economic and governmental institutions in the North, South, East and West are riddled with corruption. There is no end to greed, but it is o.k. It is democratic, and democracy stands for freedom.
Those who mount demonstrations ultimately achieve nothing, not because they can’t; it is because as a whole very, very few people care enough to sacrifice something of their own. Children starve or receive sub-standard rations in the name of goodwill, while our children train in hockey and prepare to go to college. Our air is polluted with toxic substances but worst of all are the toxic thoughts of anger, lust, fear and envy that corrode the heart. Natural rights are not important enough; they don’t bring money, prestige or power. “Taking care of oneself” is another term for “hypocrisy” and “selfishness”.
I don’t know when the word freedom acquired the connotations of violence, indifference, selfishness, and insensitivity. From the speakeasy to our own countries, from humanity at large to our own self… I cannot understand why it has become so difficult to distinguish right from wrong, genuine concern from veiled prejudice and vested interest. Somewhere we went from black and white to infinite shades of filthy grey. We are living in a repugnant world of uncontrolled, sanctioned libido; enormous tides of peer pressure everywhere force us to accept bondage and ugliness as a norm for freedom.
Where are our Christian faith, our Hebrew commandments, our Buddhist codes, or Muslim principles of peace? Religions and societies loot, rape, ostracise, patronise and condemn just like in the Middle Ages. Even the president of the United States defends the right of a racist to produce and distribute a movie that mocks a recognised World Prophet and incites the basest instincts, while a rightist Christian fanatic is allowed to post anti-Semitic propaganda reminiscent of the Hitler era, on the public subways. Adolescent girls in skin-tight-jeans avidly absorb overtly suggestive lyrics and dance… all in the name of freedom of expression.
If we have transgressed every single notion of propriety and sanctity it is because of an absence of common sense. In advocating for technical progress and broadmindedness, democracy and reform, we have eradicated all sense of conscience. It is no longer just a question of gender. Nobody holds itself accountable for the current state of indecency in secular or religious states equally.
It is time for comfortable, educated, sensitive, spiritual people to get off their pious asses, switch on their TV’s, read newspapers, come out into the world and embrace others who are different from themselves, help through example and by getting their hands dirty. It is time to stop complaining about the economy and unemployment. Everywhere in the globe there are severe difficulties imposed as a consequence of our own past self-indulgence. As part of the solution, all it takes is for people to regroup and help one another. So many unemployed could volunteer to do whatever is required for the good of all and for themselves, keeping themselves busy. It is time to command the life our spiritual conscience calls for, and draw the lines of demarcation between freedom and abuse.
If we don’t act, we ought to know that others who are much less conscientious will. Life abhors a vacuum.