Man alive: Do we know what 'freedom' actually means?
WE LIVE in a time when so many of us have an abiding preoccupation with the notion of freedom.
We talk of protecting our freedom, of fighting for our freedom, yet I sometimes wonder how much we understand what freedom actually means.
I cringe when I hear people talk about their freedom in terms of being able to do whatever they want, whenever they want.
This is the freedom of the toddler throwing a temper tantrum - the exercise of wilfulness rather than clean willingness to be in control of ourselves.
So let's look at freedom from a personal perspective. Through the lens of the Five Freedoms, ask yourself: how truly free are you?
1. The freedom to perceive what is here and now rather than what was, will be or should be.
Now this may seem to be a deeply philosophical idea, raising big questions of how do we know what is real and what is not.
Consider standing on a street corner and watching a car accident with 10 other witnesses.
Will we all describe the accident in the same way? Of course not! We will all see it through the lens of what we perceive to be true.
What you see and what I see will be based on our own truth.
So how often do you make your truth right and other people's truth wrong?
How often do you allow others to make their truth right and your truth wrong?
At another level, how often do we sit in fear of the future going wrong or the pain of the past coming back to get us?
How often do we relinquish our own freedom for the tyranny of our own perception and how often do we do this unthinkingly?
Little wonder then that in our pain we could throw a tantrum over this.
2. The freedom to think what you think, rather than what you should think.
Now you may say, of course I think my own thoughts, how could it be any other way?
So stop and ask yourself, how many advertisements have you seen or heard in the past week?
Can you honestly say it has absolutely zero influence on you?
How often have you heard someone vow they would never be like their mother or father only to realise they are just like their parents?
3. The freedom to feel what you feel, rather than what you should feel.
Like thinking our own thoughts, feeling our own feelings may appear obvious, but perhaps this is where some of the greatest tyranny lies.
How often do you suppress your emotions rather than express them? How often do you shield it away behind a mask of appearances in order to fit in? How often do you make your own emotions wrong?
4. The freedom to ask for what you want instead of waiting for permission.
Imagine teaching a child they are so unimportant that adults are the real, infallible power, both all-knowing and all-controlling.
Imagine teaching a child that their body is the property of other people, and that other people should make decisions about it. Pretty horrifically creepy, right?
Now, do you remember being in school and having to put your hand up to ask permission to go to the toilet?
5. The freedom to take risks on your own behalf instead of always playing it safe.
To get the things that we want, that we are passionate about in our life, we usually have to take risks. With great risks come great rewards. But how often do we give up on the great rewards in order to play it safe?
It is an enormous responsibility to actually embrace freedom.
We talk so much of defending freedom and fighting for freedom, often without even embracing freedom for ourselves.
Without a clear understanding of what freedom is, it is possible to sink into a place where we can become easily manipulated.
So what will you do to embrace your true freedom?