Monday, May 12, 2014

Freedom's Chimes (Three of Five)

Freedom is a most responsible thing to nurture. We very often give it up to An Other to direct us, such that we may shift the responsibility of our welfare to a dependence on Such Other. As a baby we are utterly reliant, as children we garner a little freedom, as teenagers we attempt to appropriate it, and as adults we relinquish it to the inevitability of cultural adherence, politics, or by way of commitment to An Ideal. Throughout history we have had parents, chiefs, kings and queens, prime ministers and presidents, and God Himself to take care of us. To be utterly self-responsible is indeed a most difficult thing. Until we know it is illegal to jay-walk we may do so even with fun against the traffic of danger, but once we've been apprised that it is not our 'right' that self-same jay-walk becomes a guilty thing; if we have a conscience. In many things we tend not easily to be aware of how we might impact others. So we are made to adhere to laws and guidelines. Yes, some things require strict dependence. That a concoction of deliberate drugs be so blended as to interact effectively is the stuff of scientific laws beyond my ken; I have no choice but to relinquish my independent freedom by subscribing to their ministration, or I could simply not ingest them, and thereby take on the inevitable consequences. Yes, lack of freedoms comes in many guises, but to have total freedom is perhaps an anathema, for even nature will exact its toll. We die. En route, no matter what the freedoms, we're responsible for our actions.

Adrift on a sea of drugs and dependent on the buoys demarcating my progress, I am not quite without direction. Though I cannot steer myself, I must give up my mobility to the momentum set by others. And though I may point right or left, or hold my hand up for pause down an aisle of books to be perused, there still is a decided need to give up my former ease of freedoms. My dear wife needs look at every entranceway for ease of access, for ease of parking and the very distance she may have to push my chair. At almost every crack and bump in the pavement she apologizes, for every jostle courses through me as though I were freshly kicked in the shins.

We do not know the freedom we have until we lose it. We run, we play cricket, tackle at rugby, dive from the high-dive, lift our own body weight in the gym, bash at tennis balls, gallop on a horse, dance the waltz and do the twist, but never quite like last summer. Year by year we lose our independence. We lose the ability to play squash, to bicycle, to jog, and even to walk. We lose the ability to put on our own socks. Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans everything. But all these things are physical. The theatre becomes but someone else's stage. Guitar playing dwindles to a single song. The easel stands forsook. The typing on this tablet and the books are what remains, as well as the window view and the preferred programs on TV. In inspiring Westerns the values of good and bad are clear; lessons of honour, integrity, and loyalty are delineated; the bad guy gets his come-uppance. But central to characters being human is the essence of being free within oneself to choose one's attitude. Choose! Trouble and hardship and trials attends our passage, and those who voyage with faith, care for others, and with clarity of consciousness do most likely make it into the proverbial sunset, or not. One is left inspired to go forth and do good!

The greater the freedom, the greater the responsibility. It is easier to walk a tightrope of laws and expectations from A to Z than entirely to rely, all alone, on a compass and maps and one's wits. Even then, the directions and aids are thanks to those who went before. In the Alberta and B.C. Rocky Mountain backcountry I once spent over three months hiking alone between Jasper and Assiniboine, back in 1982. And when I came out a very dear friend asked what I'd learned. "Everything is Important and Nothing Really Matters," I replied. Freedom had taught me that much. There is no such thing as nothing; it all is a matter of being fully present to the now. As such, we needs take care of ourselves in order to contribute to the health of the whole. And of that care, physical health is not quite as significant as is the psychic. To remain independent, integrative, and compassionate takes a declaration of ongoing freedom to do so; bells do toll!

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