Recently I found a poem that I had written in the angst of my youth – my response, no doubt, to a series of restrictions imposed by my parents. I wrote of my youthful yearning to be free – free like the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea – quite melodramatic, but also quite revealing.
My youthful idea of freedom was being able to live without restraint, to be able to do whatever I pleased, when it pleased me. Ultimate Free Will.
“There are two freedoms – the false, where a man is free to do what he likes;
the true, where he is free to do what he ought.” ~Charles Kingsley
I now know that the paradox of freedom is that we can only achieve it within the constraints of commitment and discipline. To give up our will is to achieve freedom.
In his marvelous book , Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, violinist Stephen Nachmanovitch writes,
“Looking out now, over the ocean, the birds, the vegetation, I see that absolutely everything in nature arises from the power of free play sloshing against the power of limits.”
A runner learns that to experience the ultimate exhilaration of free rhythmic movement, he must first strengthened and train his body to run and breathe at the same time.
A pianist knows she must practice scales and techniques until her fingers and ears are sufficiently trained to allow the creative force of music to flow unimpeded. That is when she has earned the real freedom to receive the music.
A geologist speaks about how, although her job requires hard physical labour, her body takes over the actions it knows so well, allowing her trained mind to relax into the freedom of intuitive discovery.
For me, as a writer, I know that disciplined practice trains me in the fundamentals of the writing process, giving me greater freedom for the inspired creativity that comes from free play of words on the page. Freedom to write unimpeded by my own mind and will.
“You have freedom when you’re easy in your harness.” ~Robert Frost
But, perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that the real freedom to be myself only comes after I have committed to the discipline of regular quiet time…time to burrow into the depths of my soul; to understand and accept that I am a child of God, a work in progress, a being with free will and choice no longer motivated by the approval or expectations of others. And also, one who is working on achieving the ultimate trust required to give up the gift of free will.
And that…that…I believe, becomes true freedom.
As we move towards another Remembrance Day, I am grateful for those who have given up their free will to fight for liberty. I am so grateful for the privilege to live in a country known for its freedom; freedom that is ours because of laws and limits;
251. freedom to say what I wish, and to refrain from saying what I wish
252. freedom to play
253. freedom of faith and prayer and worship
254. free access to healthcare and education
255. freedom to stride safely and without fear
256. freedom to ramble amidst natural forests, meadows and coastlines
257. freedom to travel across borders
258. freedom to pursue any career or political office
259. freedom to express my own individuality and creativity
260. freedom to choose
“You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love.” Gal 5:13