Freedom is a state of mind, not ordinarily an actual reality. We can feel free rather than exist freely. Our current world, which we have created for ourselves and others, intentionally or inadvertently but mostly as a result of irresponsibility, makes true freedom impossible. In some parts of the world, people fight for physical freedom: from slavery, forced prostitution, oppression and abuse of various kinds. In North America, we also subsist tied to society’s ideals and anchors: our phones, televisions, magazines and computers. We live by the news, our neighbours’ judgments, the size of our houses and genitalia. I would argue that I’m not the worst of offenders and generally carry around a positive attitude and only healthy concern for others’ opinions of me. But, am I free?
I find joy in freedom (who doesn’t), but I also enjoy responsibility; in my career, my family, my education. I am conscientious, reliable and typically loyal, and I thrive on accountability. I respect authority and hierarchy where necessary. I excel, given deadlines. Perhaps this makes me seem like an inherent dichotomy, and so be it.
So, during a two week vacation to BC and the Yukon, I had lofty goals of completing unreasonable amounts of work in the “off-hours”, and while I did do some good work, I found myself with a strong desire to just BE. Excuse me if that sounds like a cliché, but it’s as accurate a description of what I was pining for as I can come up with.
The drive from Whitehorse, Yukon to Atlin, British Columbia is idyllic. The evergreen trees are densely packed, a sea of deep shades of green, as dark and healthy as I’ve ever seen. The road meanders endlessly, taking you further and further from civilization. Atlin Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in BC, extends on the right, glassy and calm. Mountain after mountain reaches into the sapphire sky, steadfast and determined to dwarf everything surrounding it. It is there that you feel the world slip away, leaving you isolated and solitary. It is precisely that feeling which I was eager for.
Visiting family, I sat alone, perched on the edge of a rail-less upper deck, overlooking Atlin Lake and the Coastal Mountains. I felt free. For a few minutes, there was nothing else in the world but me, the placid water, the astounding mountains and the warm sun gilding the entire picture. For a few moments, freedom felt like a reality, inchoate. And then, it was interrupted by children shouting and playing, and lighthearted adults enjoying the esprit de corps and a grand meal. Those sounds bring joy in and of themselves, but a different feeling altogether. I felt disappointed not to have enjoyed that freedom a little longer, and for a moment was even irritated. I returned to the large group and enjoyed the rest of the evening immensely. I watched my son play with his “new-to-him” cousins and again, felt a different kind of delight and ease.
This trip brought much time for fun, and also contemplation and quiet. I thought I would write all about each place we visited but I didn’t feel the draw. I felt rather inspired to quiet my mind and in that, I found freedom. I realized that I seek and acquire freedom in many ways, by choice alone. The reality of life is that freedom, at least the way I define it, is impossible as a corporeal, daily existence. There is a big difference between outer and inner freedom and these are not interdependent. With the right attitude and a choice to be present in those miraculous and ecstatic moments, I can maximize the experience of wonderful liberty.
I write (at times) to set free pent-up feelings and desires. I am quiet in order to abandon the bustle of everyday life. I find ease and purity in the laughter of my son. I take risks to pursue liberation from routine. I lose myself in the writing of others. I’m taken to far-off places in savouring decadent foods. I push myself professionally and academically in a self-determined avoidance of mediocrity. I discover freedom in my intellectual pursuits, in pleasure, in pain and in innovation. Freedom blooms inside as I nurture my imagination, my spirituality, my sensuality, my femininity, my style, my uniqueness. I am liberated in seizing opportunities to show kindness, sincerity, and hospitality. I feel released in being a source of pleasure to those I care for. Most of all, I’m free when, with attention to morality, I act authentically and put aside any concerns separate from the current experience. Inner freedom, for me, comes too with letting go of fear. This inner freedom, detached from circumstance, is something I’ll continually strive for, fail at acquiring, and attempt again and again.