We’re celebrating our National Independence Day here in the United States of America today. It’s a great day both in our national history and in our contemporary celebrations and festivities. The fact that’s it’s also a day off work for many US Citizens is a real plus!!
The founding fathers (and I really think we ought to mention the founding mothers as well. We know they were there and had a lot to do with how things turned out. Might as well acknowledge and appreciate their many, valuable contributions too!) wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we are all created equal and that we have all been given certain unalienable rights among which are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Pretty powerful stuff. Powerful then. Still powerful – and relevant – today. In this post, I want to focus on the second right, Liberty or, as I will use it, Freedom.
What really makes a person ‘free’? Ask yourself, “How do I view ‘Freedom’?” I can only speak for myself, so I’ll share my take on two possible ways of looking at freedom.
Is it freedom from something? For example, some people speak of freedom from oppression, injustice, and other such undesirable, confining or restricting behaviors. The problem I have with looking at freedom in that context is that my freedom itself is then dependent on the actions of another, of someone or groups of people outside of myself. As if they control or create my freedom or lack of freedom. As if they are responsible for my experiencing freedom – or not. That, to me, is viewing freedom from the “lack” side. I don’t actually have freedom or I can’t create experiences of freedom unless these other, external forces (people, events, etc.) allow me to have it. That viewpoint creates in me a sense that if I can just expel this undesirable element (e.g. injustice) from my experience, then I will be free.
I prefer to move in the direction of what I do want rather than fight against what I do not want. I want to control my own experiences of freedom. I want to create my experiences of freedom in ways that include what I like rather than exclude what I dislike. I prefer to view it as freedom to do something. I am free to respect people and treat them as equals. I am free to be kind to my neighbors or, for that matter, to anyone I meet along my path. I am free to interpret my experiences of life in ways that please me and add value to the growing consciousness of humanity. I am free to believe that we are evolving and moving towards a world where we can choose peace and cooperation. I am free to expect that we will find sustainable ways to share the planet’s resources effectively so that all have enough to meet their needs.
We are, each of us, independent individuals, living separate, and yet, connected lives. In the USA, we celebrate our national independence today. I suggest that we broaden it to include our larger human family and yes, even the animals, all living things and Mother Earth herself and call it Interdependence Day. We survive individually on this planet; we thrive when we act together on this planet. Thriving together sounds much better to me!
“Freedom to” is more empowering and gives an open, inclusive context that allows each person to choose how they will add to the collective experiences that we all share. On this day that the USA honors and celebrates its Freedom, I offer the idea that all people everywhere can celebrate our creator-given right of human freedom to make a difference, to move in a direction of positive growth and to support and encourage others in respectful ways as they do the best they can to be the free people they are and are meant to be!