Monday, 29 June 2015

Condemned to be Free

Freedom is a word everyone speaks about these days. 

But how realistic is the abstract concept "freedom"? 

A person has to eat; to eat one has to work to earn money to pay for the food. We need freedom to fulfil our personal needs. If we have to work for a living, is that freedom? How free can one really be if there are people we love in our lives? Surely love brings with it the responsibility to care for our loved ones? Can we ever be free of the past, whether the collective past or our family's past or our personal past? The past is part of us; it lies within us. Memories can only be denied or accepted, supressed or embraced - they're shadows that can't be exorcised from our hearts and souls.

Is freedom, then, a romantic myth?  What is this freedom that we all yearn for? When we're poor, we think freedom lies in being rich; when we're unemployed, we think freedom lies in having a job; when we're employed, we think freedom lies in not having to work. When we're married, we think freedom lies in being single; when we're single, we think freedom lies in leaving home for university. 

Do we even know what freedom means as a practical way of existing in this physical world of trials and tribulations?  Can one ever be truly free and unrestricted enough to have total personal freedom? Do we not remain slaves to our pasts? Every time we react from a place of inner hurt or wounded-ness, every time we judge someone based on our experiences and prejudices, are we not being slaves to our past rather then being free souls thinking and acting in the experience of the moment, rather than from the social and personal conditioning colouring our perception of the moment?

Jean-Paul Sartre put it well: man, he said, is condemned to be free. He's right, of course, because freedom brings with it the weight of personal responsibility: freedom means having the power of self-determination; when we're free we're independent of fate or necessity and must then make our own choices and accept full responsibility for those choices.

Too often, in today's world, people want the freedom, but when they don't like the consequence of their free choice, they shift the blame onto politicians, parents or another person. We vote our politicians into power; our parents are ordinary people struggling with their own wounds and sorrows and the other people whom we blame for our mistakes and unhappiness are simple, ordinary folk doing the best they can in circumstances we may know nothing about.

Despite the restrictions the reality of our lives impose on us, we are free: we are free to choose how we act, we are free to choose how to react. Once we grasp the idea that freedom is not something granted to us by other people, by governments, employers or any other external authority, we are truly free. 

If we have minds open enough to move beyond all that is known to us then, lying beyond the chains of habit and comfort that keep us small and restricted, is a vast unknown universe called FREEDOM.  Even if our bodies are bound tight with the slavery of daily routine and ordinary lives, our souls can rise up to see the vision of a life unfettered from the chains of the past. We can begin to find new ways of thinking and acting that bring us an inner peace.

Go, fly now - find something in your life to look at in a new way, a way that frees you from the pain and suffering your heart has held onto for so long. If you can do that, my friend, you will know then what freedom is.

Osho Zen Tarot
Major Arcana No 4 “The Rebel”
Left: Osho Zen Tarot Major Arcana No 4 “The Rebel”

The powerful and authoritative figure in this card is clearly the master of his own destiny. On his shoulder is an emblem of the sun, and the torch he holds in his right hand symbolizes the light of his own hard-won truth. 
Whether he is wealthy or poor, the Rebel is really an emperor because he has broken the chains of society's repressive conditioning and opinions. He has formed himself by embracing all the colors of the rainbow, emerging from the dark and formless roots of his unconscious past and growing wings to fly into the sky. His very way of being is rebellious - not because he is fighting against anybody or anything, but because he has discovered his own true nature and is determined to live in accordance with it. The eagle is his spirit animal, a messenger between earth and sky. 

The Rebel challenges us to be courageous enough to take responsibility for who we are and to live our truth.        (Description from "Osho Zen Tarot: The Transcendental Game Of Zen Cards")

People are afraid, very much afraid of those who know themselves. They have a certain power, a certain aura and a certain magnetism, a charisma that can take out alive, young people from the traditional imprisonment.... 

The enlightened man cannot be enslaved - that is the difficulty - and he cannot be imprisoned.... Every genius who has known something of the inner is bound to be a little difficult to be absorbed; he is going to be an upsetting force. The masses don't want to be disturbed, even though they may be in misery; they are in misery, but they are accustomed to the misery. And anybody who is not miserable looks like a stranger.

The enlightened man is the greatest stranger in the world; he does not seem to belong to anybody. No organization confines him, no community, no society, no nation. (Osho The Zen Manifesto: Freedom from Oneself Chapter 9)

None of Us Are Free (if one of us is in chains) by Solomon Burke