Life-Love 46: Realising freedom is enjoying a moment of peace.

We all chase freedom, whether it is personal, social, cultural or economic – our culture encourages us to try and be individuals and come to an ever-better understanding of ourselves. This is a good thing, it frees us from the potential prison of the culture of our forebears and it enables us to explore new and unique identities. The only problem with the sort of self-defining freedom that we are encouraged to pursue is that it makes us think of ourselves as an object, as a work-in-progress, as something that can be perfected or chiseled away at until it take a perfect form – a form that hovers in our imagination, gauzy and ill-defined, but very tantalising and alluring. The catch is that this form hovers in the future and it contributes to an objectification of ourselves and others. When we start idealising a future “us” we start thinking about ourselves and those around us in the present as objects – things to be traded or controlled or owned or shaped. And that just isn’t human. It reduces and simplifies the rich texture of our lives, our feelings and imaginations. It flattens our many dimensions into shapes that we can think of in material terms. Rather, freedom comes from letting go – letting go of the clock’s stranglehold on our timetables; letting go of our material culture’s death grip on our imaginations; letting go of the veil that separates us from nature and the rest of life: animal, plant and human. True freedom comes in those moments when we actually start breathing and can feel the rise and fall of our chests, the warmth of our breath on our upper lip, tingling if the air is cold, causing a frisson that curls our lip ever so slightly. Freedom comes in that quiet which envelops us in a busy café as we spend a moment in contemplation, hands wrapped around a mug of coffee – the ebb and flow of the din and conversation around us becoming a soothing rumble, like waves against the seashore that lull us into relaxation and light up the cinema of the mind. Freedom is sitting in a couch and watching the sunset over a snowy hill, the trees gradually losing their brown and green shades to become the dark borders of the pane of stained glass that the sky has become, aflame with firey colour – a last celebration of the day that was and never will be again. Freedom, in the end, is quiet. And the self – well, the self comes not of the pursuit of image, but of our actions – stubbornly virtuous, sometimes in error, but always aimed toward the good. The self is the expression of those actions. Freedom is the peace that comes in quiet moments of realisation that those actions were good for us and for others.

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