Monday, 3 March 2014

56. On What it Means to be Free

If you have watched 2014's film of the year, 12 Years a Slave, you will have heard Solomon Northup's many references to once being a "free man". But what does it really mean to be free? The Oxford English Dictionary offers some insight:

Free (adj.)

1. Not under the control of anyone else; able to do what you want
2. Not having or filled with things to do: free time
3. (free of/from) not containing or affected by something undesirable
4. Available without charge
5. (adv.) without cost or payment

With the above in mind, how can we compute the concept of freedom into our everyday life?


For most, time is considered a highly valuable currency of which we just never seem to have enough. But what also occurs for most is an obligation to exchange much of that currency for leisurely activities or other motions not regularly engaged in. Generally, time can only be spent and not bought; it cannot be returned, and we cannot create or grow more for ourselves once it has been used up.


On the eighth day of this project, I wrote "Free Speech", which aimed to illustrate the impossibility of true freedom of expression - particularly within the realm of social media. As is the case with time, pure, unadulterated freedom of speech comes at a cost: harsh disciplinaries, loss of jobs, and (in some cases) even incarceration or torture. It is rarely possible for a person to speak audibly and honestly about their dissatisfaction towards a job, a new law, another person or ideology or injustice and see no subsequent repercussion. That said, one might argue that expression is not free, either.


As a young Christian woman, I am often plagued with guilt whenever I feel there is some discord between my actions and my beliefs. The feeling of not being able to prise that guilt from one's self is a highly frustrating one, and was what originally caused me to think more about the meaning of freedom. 

How does emancipation (from sin) lie at the heart of one's religion yet feel so far away in practice? Why have we been granted free will if bad choices are followed by a sense of confinement? The same question arises in secular contexts too - classic examples of this being a sense of guilt following the exercising of one's freedom to consume junk food, an excess of alcohol or other unhealthy (but often delicious and/or satisfying) substances. Can we ever truly live "guilt-free"?

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