Songs, books, legends and wars are based on the ideal of freedom. Peasants and slaves both sought freedom from tyrannical lords of the land. Citizens seek freedom from government. Mankind seeks freedom to travel the universe. Millions strive for spiritual or financial freedom. Teenagers seek freedom from their parents. Parents seek freedom from their teenagers. Yet in the end, do we even have a clear picture or what “freedom” really is?
The word freedom comes from the German word “Friede”, which means “peace”. Ironic, huh? Battles throughout history have been fought seeking something, that in its essence, means peace.
According to the dictionary, one definition of freedom is as follows.
“The ability to act freely: a state in which somebody is able to act and live as he or she chooses, without being subject to any undue restraints or restrictions.”
Well that sounds pretty straightforward, right? The ability to do what you want, when you want, how you want and where you want, without worrying about the world around us. Sounds perfect. It’s completely unrealistic, but pretty damn cool. Please! There’s always a ripple effect and often there is a title wave effect. It’s never really pointed out by anyone, but those ripple and title wave affects are the restraints that hinder you from making the decisions you supposedly have the freedom to make. This definition of “freedom” is not as free as one might like to think.
The good news is there are more definitions for freedom. Albert Einstein was a pretty intelligent man and he said the following.
“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.”
Lofty. Eloquent. Spiritual. And not particularly relevant to our daily lives. Let’s face it, his words are about as tangible as getting beamed down from the U.S.S. Enterprise. When I close my eyes and dream of metaphysical and spiritual experiences, it is a wonderful thing. But when I open my eyes, I am still sitting in a chair at the dinning room table. The phone bill still needs to be paid. I still have to hurry up and hit the road or I am going to be late for work. Truth be known, with each and every invention created by intellects such as Mr. Einstein, mankind has taken another step away from freedom. I’m not sure how much stock we should put into his words.
Kris Kristofferson wrote the song “Me and Bobby McGee”, performed by the late, great, Janice Joplin. His lyrics said,
“Freedom’s just another word for nothin left to lose, and nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free.” And suddenly we’ve come full circle. Freedom is everything, but it’s nothing.
When I began writing this article I did a little research on Freedom. Believe it or not, there are at least 40 pages of quotes on this one word. Politicians who have dedicated their lives to hindering our freedom wrote most of them. Another irony, right? My favorite one was by the crusty old Republican, Newt Gingrich.
“A mere forty years ago, beach volleyball was just beginning. No bureaucrat would have invented it. And that’s what freedom is all about.” Who knows what the heck he was trying to say? It was Newt.
Lyndon Johnson said, “The fifth freedom is ignorance.” There’s a chance he was referring to Newt.
“Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” George Orwell wrote this. By that definition, IRS employees are the most free individuals ever known to mankind.
The great Women’s Lib advocate, Gloria Steinem said, “Nothing changes the gender equation more than women’s economic freedom.” This was obviously said prior to Katelyn Jenner storming onto the scene.
Author, Dean Alan Foster wrote, “Freedom is just chaos, with better lighting.” I like that one.
In the end, I guess freedom is one of those words that can be defined pretty much however you want to define it. Teenagers believe the great freedom will come after they leave home. Parents feel the same way. Yet, the teenager usually doesn’t leave and everyone is content that freedom has eluded them, at least for a while.
Freedom. It’s like good art. I don’t really know what it is, but I know it when I see it. Here’s to finding freedom… whatever that means.