Two kinds of freedom

There are two kinds of freedom to seek. Which kind are you looking for? Only one kind successfully gives us experiences of being free. The other kind is like an attractive bait that tempts us with the promise of freedom which is never delivered. Knowing the difference can be learned from forewarnings like this, or from experiences with falling for the fake kind of freedom.

Authentic freedom is found within situations. The constraints and limitations imposing on us get valued for providing the context to experience freedom. Too much freedom loses the sense of being free because there's no contrast to the create the experience. White shapes on a white background is illegible. White on non-white is recognizable and much appreciated.
Pseudo freedom is sought after by escaping from situations. Acts of defiance, rebellion, or retaliation offer an empty promise of freedom. Constraints and limitations appear obviously oppressive, confining and useless. There's no sense of a need for context and contrasting background. The need for freedom is urgent, desperate and senseless. There's no meaning for the freedom, only the pursuit of it for it's own sake. There's no escape after all. We remain haunted by what we we're avoiding, opposing or defying.

Authentic freedom is rich with significance. It means so much to us because the freedom ties into our uniqueness. We are free to be ourselves, to live our chosen lives, and to express our inner truths. The freedom we find is very telling about us. It's obvious in what we really care about deeply, commit to easily and create things on this basis.
Pseudo freedom is devoid of significance. It's pursued for cheap thrills, a change in moods, or a break from endurance contests. It breaks up the monotony, struggles or burdensome obligations. We're only as free as a dog on a leash, getting taken for a walk, where someone can always "pull our chain". We're not our own person or living the life we were meant to be exploring.

Authentic freedom is a free gift found within. It's a package deal to be opened when we're ready for more meaning in our lives. It comes with the body, mind, family of origin and personal history. Nothing of what you got needs to change. All it takes is a accepting the gift and doing something personally significant with it.
Pseudo freedom is hard earned. It usually takes big bucks to buy freedom from a system of oppression. It involves drawn out struggles and endless sacrifices. Yet we're still the same person in the same old meaningless life. There's no change of in the significance of what happens or tie-ins to our uniqueness. We do what's expected and rely on external structure to keep us in line. When we discover we've bought into pseudo freedom, we feel ripped off. We realize we fell for the shoddy bill of goods because the world made it easy to not look within past our irrational urges and negative emotions.

With this distinction in mind (between authentic and pseudo freedom), you can begin to:
  • catch yourself falling for the bait to settle for fake freedom
  • find meaning in your frustrations from escapes that don't really feel like freedom
  • appreciate authentic freedom when you either find it or create experiences of it
  • recognize patterns of devotion to pseudo freedom that call for a change of identity


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  2. Tēnā koe Tom!

    I believe my father sought and achieved true freedom and contentment in his life. He followed his trade, reaching the pinnacle of human craftsmanship with his accomplishment as a master joiner and cabinetmaker. But he never sought recognition or special favour by it. He made a number of beautiful musical instruments, some violins of various tonal qualities, and a few very fine mandolins, two of which he gave to me.

    In 1969, I brought my musician friend, Mike, to meet my father in his workshop. Mike played the mandolin and when my father learnt this, he let him play one of his finest mandolins. Mike could play well and was obviously impressed with the instrument. When my father handed it to him as a gift, Mike was embarrassed and said that he could not take it that way. He offered my father 50 pounds for it, which was probably what it was worth at that time. My father, seeing Mike’s genuine discomfort at being gifted the instrument, offered it to him for 10 pounds or not at all. Mike bought the mandolin and has cherished and played it ever since.

    I believe this act of kindness, and many others like it that he committed, indicated my father’s true contentment, achieved through fulfillment that was not directly of a material nature.

    Contentment is much like freedom. It is truly difficult to achieve. Many look on contented people with disdain, mistaking contentment for mediocrity. They are not the same thing.

    Ka kite
    from Middle-earth

  3. Ken: Thanks for this look at your father's contentment. Acts of kindness, generosity, initiative or voluntary responsibility -- indicate that the giver is free to be so giving. Much of the outpouring in blogs, wiki edits, open source projects, social networking and media uploads are offered in this spirit of personal freedom. To give freely or to accept gifts freely, authentic freedom must be found within first. If we fall for pseudo freedom, we cannot be so compassionate.

    Without inner freedom, we react the way your friend Mike did at first. We've become adapted to highly politicized, manipulative and deceitful offers in our family, schooling, friendships and/or employment. We're wary of gifts with strings attached that make accepting the gift a perilous situation. We expect to be taken hostage by the giver of gifts in ways we cannot predict or control. We're living in danger of feeling guilty, bad or wronged by others' apparent generosity.

    When we realize freedom from living in constant danger, we exude contentment like you father's. We find we have a way with the materials we work with, with words we share or with people we care about. We let go of how others react, limit themselves or expect things to be different. We give and receive freely. Thanks Ken!