Assata Shakur said, “I’m not quite sure what freedom is, but i know damn well what it ain’t. How have we gotten so silly, i wonder.” Our silliness comes from our inability to let go of the assumptions, habits, and institutions at the root of our despair. Walking through the cicadas singing love chants in the shimmering summer trees, and sitting around old folks drinking beer and filling the air with cigarettes smoke freedom resides, but the feelings of distance from divinity, despair at the potential for life, and loneliness is found in the stone buildings ruling our lives. Balance isn’t natural in a world that benefits from ripping away 9hrs of our day leaving us 4hrs to recover for it only to be taken away again; offering popsicles as a mock sympathy for the pain in our feet and pressure swelling in our face. Releasing the images of a world that is all sinful and all heavenly allows us to accept reality through patience and presence. However, building a world that is more bearable, more human, and encourages us to value our sanity over corporation’s greedy monetary pursuits aimed at treating us like cattle, without being considered a culture killer, requires every individual actively, and presently, destroying assumptions and traditions that have little concern for the life happening inside us. We take our freedom and live inside ourselves, for the corporations would rather us devote our lives to improving them.
On the eve of his departure from a once foreign land, our Prophet, Almustafa, The hero of Kahlil Gibran’s wonderful work, is asked by the seeress to answer the villagers questions and ease their hearts. We worship the idea of freedom; people live their lives in constant pursuit of eternal peace, and endless prayers of one day hitting the jackpot of happiness. Becoming free requires effort, and our delusions about the function of the world trap us in hallow echo chamber reaching eternally for freedom. An oracle asks Almustafa “What is the meaning of freedom”, and our prophet speaks on the importance of releasing our delusions–he says:
At the city gate and by your fireside I
have seen you prostrate yourself and worship
your own freedom,
Even as slaves humble themselves before
a tyrant and praise him though he slays
Ay, in the grove of the temple and in
the shadow of the citadel I have seen the
freest among you wear their freedom as a
yoke and a handcuff.
And my heart bled within me; for you
can only be free when even the desire of
seeking freedom becomes a harness to you,
and when you cease to speak of freedom
as a goal and a fulfilment.
Finding a reason for your suffering that removes responsibility is desirable; we attribute our position in life to divine intervention, but neglect the need for action. Our desire for freedom is the root of our suffering as the Buddha says, “If you sleep, Desire grows in you Like a vine in the forest. Like a monkey in the forest You jump from tree to tree, Never finding the fruit – From life to life, Never finding peace. If you are filled with desire Your sorrows swell Like the grass after the rain. But if you subdue desire Your sorrows shall fall from you Like drops of water from a lotus flower.” We must live presently and acknowledge the pain and joy and forgetfulness and endurance that fills our lives. We were taught money would bring us happiness, peace was pursued outside ourselves, and all activities were frivolous for salvation was found in the afterlife. Many of my peers were surprised when the money didn’t make them happy, the years searching for freedom became tiring, and when they realized, at 24, 29, and 36, that the afterlife came on its own time. The world’s fullness, completeness, rests on the other side of our attachments; however, the pain, and anger, that comes from peeling off the leeches attached to our psyche can cause anyone to curse the life we’ve been given. The suppression of our knowledge is the rejection of life and all its beauty, for freedom is accepting the unknown intertwined in our lives. Freedom becomes a tyrant when wrapped in deluded desires, but as we approach the world and release ideas fashioned by outside hands Almustafa’s words ring truer in our lives–he says:
You shall be free indeed when your days
are not without a care nor your nights with-
out a want and a grief,
But rather when these things girdle your
life and yet you rise above them naked and
And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains
which you at the dawn of your under-
standing have fastened around your noon
In truth that which you call freedom is
the strongest of these chains, though its
links glitter in the sun and dazzle your eyes.
We must remember the world is duality, and those days where beauty, joy, and quietness are nonexistent that all of life is found inside us. Thus when we lose all hope rests the sacred space for transformation; we will find freedom when we embrace this space– Almustafa says:
Verily all things move within your being
in constant half embrace, the desired and
the dreaded, the repugnant and the cherished,
the pursued and that which you would
These things move within you as lights
and shadows in pairs that cling.
And when the shadow fades and is no
more, the light that lingers becomes a
shadow to another light.
And thus your freedom when it loses its
fetters becomes itself the fetter of a greater
A wonderful essay from a extraordinary book that offers an approach to our lives that requires our presence and the release of every assumption. I suggest this book becoming apart of everyone’s library, and reading it with diligence absorbing every line of a book from a author that waited 4yrs to release it because he wanted it perfect.