A couple of weekends ago, my fiancé and I were driving down Highway 81 -- a primary east coast truck corridor -- through the heartland of Virginia.
Just outside of Harrisonburg, we changed lanes and found ourselves behind a white rig with what appeared to be a corporate motto stenciled onto the back. Moving closer, its message became clear:
"Freedom Isn't Free"
I considered those words as we trailed the truck and for a good while after. And my thought -- initially and still -- is that while the saying certainly rings well, it doesn't ring true.
The very notion of freedom, and the lack of it, are concepts of human design... concepts we embrace and live into, verifying the illusion that freedom is definitely not a given and most certainly not free.
Yet it is indeed an illusion. Created by us, perceived by us, and brought to life by us, it is only we that believe in and live lives without 'freedom'. No other animal -- save for when we make it so -- joins us in this farce.
As your mind reaches for an example where this is not the case, notice that it must first come to yet another human construct of thought, ideology, religion, militarism, nationalism, sociology, economy, or politics that by virtue of its existence, creates the basis for your answer...
Certainly there is competition, as we see in the animal and even plant kingdoms. Of course there are limitations, of land and even renewable resources (thanks, in large part, to our own overpopulation and greed). But this doesn't change the reality that they all -- animals, plants, land and resources alike -- remain utterly and completely free.
It is instead our created boundaries of ownership and economics that put a value, price, and certain prohibition on plants, animals, places and things. It is borders around nations and neighborhoods -- and the heart -- that both exclude and imprison people. And it is the ubiquitous barrier between trust and fear -- the mentality rather than reality of scarcity -- that requires the parceling up and hoarding of resources.
High, rigid and tight as our walls and minds may be, freedom beckons to us over and around every notion and manifestation of our self-imposed limitations and constraints.
This is as true in art as it is in politics, economics and ownership; it is the barriers of self-doubt and self-consciousness that keep us from being self-expressed and truly creative in the world. Just as we place material and often prohibitive value on what we deem art, we alone place restrictions on ourselves and others, which limit the freedom we feel and with which we create.
Freedom isn't some utopian ideal. It is our inherent and natural state. As such, it is freely given. It is we who choose to block the path to its door in every instance and aspect. And it is we who are able -- when we choose -- to throw the doors wide once again.
In this month of our independence, this month dedicated to the celebration of freedom, let us take this lesson to heart.
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