What is Freedom?
There have been shackles and chains which have been placed on your mental limbs since birth. You have no idea why you have them, and nobody can explain to you why they’re there. You woke up one day and discovered that your ability to move is now encumbered with a magnificent weight. But somebody knew that the shackles and chains were put in place for good reason. So the question begins with wondering if the better route to take is to understand the shackles and chains that you’re wearing, or to cut them all off, allowing you to begin again in order to discover what freedom really means. You begin looking around for answers. You turn to the person next to you and ask them to help you understand these shackles and chains, only to sadly find that they have the same burdens attached to them, and were hoping you could provide the answer to the question that you, yourself are seeking.
Maybe the next one. Maybe the next person that comes to you will have an answer. Maybe they can give you a bit of light as to why these heavy obstacles have been placed on your life. But the more and more people you talk to— the farther and farther you travel for the answer to the seemingly unanswered question, the more you realize that nobody can solve the puzzle, and the vast majority of those that you have stumbled upon in this desert of life have merely accepted the shackles as a part of them. The energy required to find the answer to their runaway question has left them exhausted and withered on the side of life’s highway.
It is time to break them. So one by one, you cut off those ties. You cut out each little burden from your life as a tree gives up its leaves in preparation for winter. Some of the chains are simple. Maybe you free your self from the financial burden of the mansion that you live in by downsizing to a cottage. Your fancy car isn’t as important as you once thought it to be. And then some of those chains were put in place by a thicker steel; they require you to put a bit more thought into the act of removing them. You begin looking at your relationships. There are an extensive number of binds on your right leg which don’t seem necessary. If only you could cut a few off them off…
And so the process of hacking away at the connections you have with others begins. It is easy at first. There are so many ties around your right leg that the choice of which to cut almost present themselves to you. The friends on social media that you have no natural connection with in your everyday life. That one only took a few minutes of effort with a hacksaw to get through it. Afterwards, you feel a bit more accomplished in your quest. You’re lighter now, and find your self with more energy to tackle some of the fatter chains. So you begin cutting away at them slowly. You pick a few relationships with those around you that you feel have an unwarranted definition on who you are. Or maybe it is something about who they are that you wish to distance from you.
One by one, the shackles break, and the weights fall off. You can almost taste freedom, as your energy begins to get revivified in your experience of life. The world becomes more beautiful on a daily basis. You now have the time to enjoy the landscape around you when you choose to take a break from walking towards the next day, instead of spending each resting moment in a collapsed, wretched, heap of bones and skin from dragging the toil and drudgery of the past. Soon enough, you find your self running; freedom is as close as your next meal. The excitement overwhelms you for an instant, as you get wrapped up in the rush of acceleration towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Like Forrest Gump, when the braces on his legs are popping at the rivets and flailing in a metallic clatter by his sides.
The chains are cut. The shackles are gone. You’re cooking now, baby! You’re flying a million miles per minute through the endless ocean of life. And you feel it. You feel what it is like to be completely and utterly free. It is serenity. It is calming. It is confidence, and an equal amount of brilliant pleasure. There is a warm glow coming in from all sides, and that warm glow is you. You’ve done it! Woohoo! You take a second and stop. Just to look around. This is a once in a lifetime experience, and you want to soak it in as much as you can, for as all good things go, you know that they don’t last forever, or else they couldn’t be good to begin with. You’re sitting atop the Mountain of Freedom, and you begin to look around. You were so ecstatic in your sprint to the mountain top that you hadn’t noticed there was one ball and chain left to be cut, and it was the biggest of them all. And now, some moments later, the weight of reality comes slamming into the back of you with the exact force that you had put into running away from it.
The ten-foot-thick steel cable tethered between the weight of the world and you is staring you directly in the face. It causes you to remember where you came from. You remember all of those others who you’ve been questioning. Every person that sat helplessly slumped over from the burden of life’s weights which encumbered them. All of those people who asked the question from someone around them and never did find the answer, and now were hopelessly waiting for their candle of existence to dwindle out, as that was the only conceivable answer to the question that gripped them.
On one hand, there is your future. You have the energy to fly to a new experience that is completely uncharted territory. You’re Christopher Columbus. You’re Lewis and Clark. You’re Issac Newton, or maybe Einstein. You’re a pioneer on the brink of discovery. You once couldn’t imagine what freedom felt like, but you knew it was something that you were destined to achieve. You reached it, and the gamble won in your favor, as it is seemingly the which which is no whicher. It is the pinnacle of your existence, and you know that regardless of what new land you stumble upon, whether it be a pleasant woodland or a cannibalistic, post-apocalyptic wasteland, the journey to get there is going to be a miraculous experience which can only surpass the intensity of your current one.
On the other hand, there is a sea of twinkling candles behind you, each one burning the flame of a soul which you have shared wicks with during the journey to where you are now. Many of those candles can only burn for so much longer; some, and you don’t know which ones, will inevitably burn out before you can hope to reach them.
You know that you can’t give them the answer to their questions which burden them any more than they could give the answer to yours. The answer is something you can only give to your self, because no words, no pictures, and no means of worldly communication can effectively translate the experience from one set of hands to the next. The best hope you have is that they will choose to stop asking the answers from you as you did from them, and begin to tackle the almost insurmountable feat of ridding themselves of all of their own shackles and chains.
You have unlimited freedom in the most pure form that you know, and you’re hungry to see what more you can learn. But the candles, man. They’re all you. They’re all where you came from, who you know, and who helped you to be where you are now.
Do you walk into the unknown darkness with the unending candle that has been created for your self, conquering the new fears that lie before you like the forefathers of your past?
Or do you turn back, exchanging your fire of eternity for the shackle of mortality so that your flame can be used to allow others’ wicks of experience to burn for just a tiny bit longer?
If you were handed freedom on a silver platter tomorrow, would you know what to do with it?