how we use our freedom

goldfinch

Goldfinch (1654) by the Dutch painter Carel Fabritius. Donna Tartt’s main character from her recent book was enamored with it, and now so am I.

It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.
Voltaire

When we are given real freedom to seek our own potential, we often cower. We want what is familiar; what is safe and predictable. We are afraid to take risks that might realize our full potential, perhaps more than anything because we are afraid of failing. Or maybe we’re afraid of success itself. They say the higher you climb, the further you fall.

But what about seeking a different kind of potential, the kind that also lifts up those around us? I’m talking about the kind of individual potential that makes a positive impact in this world, not the kind where it’s all about competing for perceived finite attention/resources and gets us entangled in all sorts of competition.

I recently listened to an online talk about realizing our own power, and the speaker pointed out that women today (and I would argue men as well) are of the first few generations who can truly ask what our higher purpose is. We have this new-found freedom to do more than we could have ever imagined, but we’ve been given no road map, no orientation to properly manage this freedom for the greater good of ourselves, our communities and humanity at large. When I look around at how we use our freedom in the western world, and I’m not terribly impressed with our choices.

And before you think I’m up on my own pedestal, let me insert here that I just watched four episodes of Weeds in a row last night. I had to really stop myself from watching a fifth.

I’m not going to languish in my own fear of failure, even if I am scared to seek my higher calling instead of getting another cushy job that I hate with even more money (an option I haven’t ignored). My higher calling doesn’t have to be grandiose. I will take that leap of faith when it comes to me.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

-Maya Angelou

What does your freedom mean to you?

3 comments

  1. Evo,

    Super post, with a super epitaph. You’ve made me think, and I am better for it.

    I continue to debate as to whether the search for meaning is a sign of maturing spirituality, a profound intellect, or a sign of an ego which requires further nurturing. I can find no other meaning to my existence than to love others, and to live as decent a life as I am able, for what this is worth:

    “And though I have the power of prophecy, to penetrate all mysteries and knowledge, and though I have all the faith necessary to move mountains — if I am without love, I am nothing.”

    (Not making a claim to being a prophet, obviously)

    • I read your response last night when I was jet-lagged and still loony tunes tired, but I’m reading it again now with more clarity, and I thank you for this beautiful response. I actually just posted something that is related to your comment. I love the quote you mention, and yes, it does indeed begin with love in my humble opinion. To me, it is the sole reason we exist, but the way we search for it is often misguided, isn’t it? This day and age seems to confuse love with admiration. All is either love or fear, they say..

      • I’d just read your post and commented when I saw this. Yes, too often we confuse admiration for love, and do not recognize that we are trying to solicit admiration (or sympathy).

        I intent to use that quote as the epitaph to the final chapter in my second book. Little did I know that I had it on hand for an earlier use. 😉

        I suspect you are well on your way to being in a better place.

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