Today is a good day to think about freedom. The dictionary says that freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. It says that freedom is the absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government. It says that freedom is the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. That’s a tremendous definition for just one word.
How many of us have all of these things, i.e., total freedom? I would bet not many. Perhaps no one at all has full freedom. Actually, it sounds almost impossible. In America, we have the right to act, speak, and think as we want without hindrance or restraint because of the First Amendment. But how many of us really do act, speak, and think exactly as we want? Some of us may not because we do not wish to hurt someone else’s feelings. Others may not because they are worried what people might think of them. Still others may not because today’s politically correct world tells them they cannot, and they mistakenly believe it.
|The freedom of the waves in Mackerel Cove.|
What about the absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government? Do we have that? Perhaps we are not dominated by a foreign country, but surely their policies can affect and even sometimes dominate us. As for a despotic government, that is a very subjective term. Some will feel our government is very despotic; others that it is quite fair. Perception is everything. It’s not what something actually is, it’s what you think it is that changes everything.
Then there’s the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. This one is tricky. It is also sublime, because if you can manage this one, you have true freedom. In 1642 Richard Lovelace, in his poem To Althea, From Prison, said “Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage.” He knew that it took a lot more than that to make a prisoner, to enslave someone. He knew that true freedom cannot ever be caged or enslaved because it is not a physical thing.
Following his lead, then, from the poem, I will say that when you can toast the health of your friends in an atmosphere of camaraderie, you have freedom. When you give them loyalty and receive it undiluted in return, you have freedom. When you can sing at the top of your lungs of the greatness of your society or your faith, you have freedom. Of the stone walls and iron bars, he says, “Minds innocent and quiet take that for a hermitage.” Perception, again. What is prison to one person is a peaceful hermitage, a retreat, to someone else.
In the end, though, he says, “If I have freedom in my love and in my soul am free, angels alone, that soar above, enjoy such liberty.” It is the freedom to love and be loved, to feel free in your soul, that lifts you from the vagaries of this world to the realm of the divine.
Today is Independence Day in the United States, “land of the free and home of the brave.” There are many broken things around us that desperately need fixing, but the fact that we still can fix them speaks of freedom to me. We can still toast the health of our friends and speak our minds, however uncomfortable that might make some people. We have not reached the realm of the divine yet, because we are a work in progress. I’m happy to be part of that work.