Freedom. It’s pretty important. It must be.
In the final climatic scene of Braveheart, when William Wallace is displayed on the executioner’s stone and about to have his insides roughly delegated to his outsides, his final resounding exclamation isn’t “Ouchh! Or “WTF! Call a freakin’ ambulance!”
Nope, instead it is simply, “Freedom!”
So, seems like there is something to this.
Yet, for all it’s importance, it also seems like many, if not most people, rarely investigate what exactly freedom is. What is freedom?
If we look at it, perhaps with the lens zoomed in, we could say that freedom is very simply the ability to do what I want, say what I want, think what I want, and be what I want. Wouldn’t you say? As a working definition, this about sums it up?
Yet it seems like our perspective of freedom here has some strings attached, doesn’t it? It has a rider in the fine print, which perhaps we don’t notice at first when we view freedom through this lens.
George Bernard Shaw once wrote that there are two great tragedies in life: not getting what you want, and getting what you want. See, it’s the wanting that screws up our definition of freedom. Even though we could say this is freedom, it is bound by our desire, and I don’t know about you, but my desires are anything but reliable. I just can’t trust ‘em. Either can you..
Maybe it is just me, but hell, most of the time, I don’t even know what I want. Wants are constantly changing. They are fickle. One minute I want the “Gotta Have It” size double mint chocolate rocky road ice cream from Cold Stone, and at the same time I don’t want ice cream at all; I want a salad with balsamic dressing. When I want a promotion at work, the next moment I’m thinking about getting a new job. All the single ladies want a ring on it, and then ten minutes later are lovin’ being single and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m driving an old Jeep, and I want a new car, yet at the same time, I love my old Jeep (and my lack of a car payment) and the desire fizzles. Now I just want my old Jeep to keep running.
This is the dilemma of desire. Even if you get want you want, you end up wanting the opposite. Crazy, huh? And definitely not freedom.
But why do you suppose this is? Do we have some faulty wiring in the brain?
Or is it possible that on some visceral level, some very deep space within our being, we know that our wants can never satisfy. We know we can find no fulfillment in them, no solutions. Because they constantly change, we cannot rely on them to bring us freedom.
If we zoom the lens out, and expand our view, we will begin to notice how useless desire is – indeed, not just useless.
Desire is a lie.
An outright lie.
Every single desire is based on the idea that things can be different, or should be different, than how they are, and that is simply not true. This moment can never be any different than the way it is. It cannot be better, nor can it be worse. Things are always the way they are.
Don’t take my word for it. Check it out. Can this moment right now, be any different than it is?
When this is understood, something really wonderful happens: we begin to see through the lie, and begin to allow for what is to simply be. It’s going to be anyway, no matter how much you desire it otherwise, so why not simply allow it?
But do not fall into the trap. You cannot stop wanting. You cannot end desire. As a matter of fact, desire is necessary. The desire for freedom is the ultimate desire, and must be burning, unending, implacable and wholehearted. Just see it for what it is: a necessary lie.
But beyond a resigning acceptance of what is, is it possible to actually turn the desire, and begin wanting what is?
Instant happiness! When you bring all the energy and drama of your desire and place it on what is happening right now, boom! Your desire is instantly fulfilled. How could it not be? If you desire what is happening, and it is happening, then you are getting what you want. Always!
You can do this. You can actually want what is happening right now, whatever it might be, with the same enthusiasm that you bring to any other of your unreliable desires. However, this freedom does come with a price. For this desire to be reliable, you have to give something up, because in wholeheartedly wanting what is, instead of the lie that what is could be different, there is nothing for you to do. You have to give up the idea that you can change what is.
And so true freedom then, in our expanded view, could be defined as the absence of the desire for things to be any different. Or said the opposite way: the wholehearted desire for things to be exactly as they are. To have continual gratitude for each moment as it arises. There will still be desires, for they are also what is happening, but it will no longer matter whether they are fulfilled our not. Our satisfaction, our contentment, is in the appearance of whatever is in the moment itself.
By saying “yes” to each unfolding moment, even when that moment contains desire, is to invite an open playful curiosity about what is happening, no matter what the results or outcome of that moment is. This is true freedom.
Saying yes, is playing the wildcard: