I’ve been thinking about those early days of Frederick Douglass when he wrote that monumental slave narrative that was his life. His first moment of freedom was when he gave his master a grim glance and, standing up straight, challenged him. It was when he saw his master cower that he realized he wasn’t a slave at all; you see, it was an inside job. He had to realize within himself that he was worth more. Soon after that encounter, with a bit of daring and a finely planned ruse, he was able to escape from his bondage. Douglass also found freedom through education; when he could read, write and speak in public he became a terrible weapon to his former masters, who later became the conquered slaves themselves.
So I ask myself, what is freedom? The lines of slave and master are not so clear. How do we distinguish freedom and servitude? The aspects of bondage cross socio-economic boundaries, race lines, and cultural borders. You find rich and poor, old and young, black and white, all tied up in various forms of bondage. So how can we discern what freedom is and pursue it?
Physical Freedom: Physical freedom is being unchained and out in the open. You are not shackled, imprisoned nor incarcerated. Your life isn’t signed away to strenuous labor, nor are you under an oath to consign your liberty.
Intellectual Freedom: You have the tools to educate yourself so that you are instructed in history. You have the tools to read, write, and speak effectively to be heard. You understand the political agents around you but also become self-aware. As they say, one cannot learn enough. Arming yourself with education is a sure way to protect your rights.
Religious Freedom: You actively practice your religion or use spiritual devotion as a way to free yourself. Spiritual solutions can be immensely freeing and operate to encourage someone to self-discerning enlightenment. Spiritual bliss is a feeling that overcomes someone who follows the rules outlined. What is freer than that?
Expressive Freedom: Sometimes I just want to scream at the top of my lungs. Yea, that is expressive freedom. You are free to express yourself by way of art, dress, or other means. Expressive freedom is about using your voice. Poetry, essays, art, and songs all help to express feelings. This is a powerful way to exercise your freedom while also growing your intellect. I find expressive freedom associated with what I call one’s culture of choice. We all have affinities for a certain type of music, just as some prefer oranges over grapes. Art is an acquired taste, and there are more kinds of it than there are fine wines. So stick to what you find tasteful and use it to express, engender confidence, and build upon your values.
Economic Freedom: This is fairly straightforward, and is the freedom to support oneself financially.
Inner Freedom: This is closely related to Religious and Expressive freedom, but dives a little deeper. Inner freedom is the ability to have victory over the inner challenges one faces. When we lack freedom in other ways, we often find ourselves hurt. Inner freedom unlocks us from the perils of vice that keep us oppressed. Most often, it is myself alone who keeps me imprisoned through detrimental behaviors. Self-inflicted wounds are pretty painful. Using the tools of freedom, we can overcome these kinds of struggles.
So that is all for today. I wanted to think about these different freedoms and how they relate to my own life. I find art to be a form of expression that frees me. It also engenders new thoughts and values. Literature can never hurt you. It always teaches you a lesson about good and evil. Spiritual freedom has also helped me immensely to overcome challenges, though I’m nowhere near perfect. I hope you can gain something from this and pursue your own freedom!
My Freedom: Unchained, Learning, Praying, Dancing and Singing, Paying our way, and Clear-minded.