Exploring the meaning of freedom

What does it mean to be free? Does it depend at all on our material circumstances, or is it rather something that exists in our mind?

I recently wrote some posts from the perspective of a tree, over on the other blog I am contributing to, Anima Monday. These posts were based on a communication with a tree, and this was a challenge that this tree-being posed to me. ‘I have no body that I can move around with, but does that make me less free than you? Probably you are just bound by other kinds of restrictions…’

The more I think about this, the more I realize just how very true this is. We are part of the narrative of our society, and that narrative binds the way in which we behave in many, many way. We are given a mould which we grow into, and are told that the meaning of ‘growing up’ is accepting that mould. ‘Leaving our childhood behind’ means stopping to be a free spirit and instead accepting the rules imposed on us by others.

Is this a bad thing? It isn’t, until it is. There are certain things a child indeed has to learn, like thinking further than its own personal instincts, and also taking into account the rights of others. There is also the inevitable fact that in order to become something, it may be necessary to give up on other things. In order to grow, some sacrifices will always need to be made and instead boundaries accepted. So that, by becoming less, we become more at the same time. Because by restricting the world we choose to explore, we get to spend more time there, and we get to know it on a much more intimate level. In other words, the seed that once danced in the wind accepts the limitations that come with becoming tree.

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So far the healthy. Giving up freedom can be an essential part of life.

Let us now turn to the other side of things. Freedom lies in accepting a restrictive situation if that helps us to become the person we need to be, both in our own interest and the interest of our society. But this is a state of restriction that is in constant flux, one that still includes an openness to change, and an acceptance of the value that lies in the unknown, the unexplored, the other-than-self.

Stagnation threatens if we try to impose the boundaries that have served us personally onto others. If we can no longer see the seed but rather a potential copy of ourselves. Or worse, as a new chance to become the things we failed to become ourselves.

Each seed is unique, and needs to be given the chance to develop according to its own individual strengths. That is how we create a strong and diverse society as well: if all kinds of skills and strengths are equally welcomed, the collective will thrive as well.

Now think of this for yourself. How often have you abstained of doing something because of a fear of ‘what will others think if I do that?’ Whose interest did that serve? Society, or simply someone else’s fear of the unknown? Or maybe it was actually just a projection of your own fear of becoming and being seen for what you truly are? Now, what will you do next time? Which fight is more worth fighting? That of fighting for the right to become whole, or that of helping to sustain fear as a force of oppression in the world? Choose to fight for what is right. It will make a more worthwhile effort, even if it is not necessarily the easier path.

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Also think of your own task as nourisher of other people’s seeds. Will you accept their truths, their individual beauties even if they are far different from your own? Can you let go of fear and opt for love instead?

Together, let us strive to become forest. Becoming free by turning into strong, mature trees. So we can start seeding a better future.