Finding freedom

INDEPENDENT SPIRIT

Finding freedom

It’s the joy of waking up each morning to a bright, new day, the silence just before dawn, as you lie in bed in the safe knowledge that you have a roof over your head. Freedom is in the smile you decide to share, spreading cheer in someone’s day. Freedom is in the moment you decide to pick up a phone call or shutdown your electronic device for some downtime.

It’s in a baby’s giggle you choose to respond to, the flight of a dandelion you stop to watch. Freedom is in the shades of blue dotted with white in the clear sky, you choose to admire, in the sudden pitter-patter of rain that you decide to get wet under. The unbearable excitement in your dog when you get home at the end of a long day, the peacefulness of turning a page in your book just before you turn out the lights at night.

Freedom is in the pauses for water breaks on a tennis match, you know you’ll never win; freedom is in the time spent on stolen cups of coffee when you are aware that your project was due for submission the day before. Freedom is when you decide to stay back in your car till your favourite song stops playing on the radio; it’s when you don’t mute the catchy tune that leads up to your much-loved television show. Freedom is a little bit of all this, and yet so much more.

Count the ways

Much like a torsion pendulum, from one of those delicate mantlepiece ‘anniversary clocks’, our degrees of freedom are barely measurable. In most cases, it is so precisely tuned, that a little tweak of a spring is all it takes to make a difference.

But how is freedom measured? How much freedom does society really leave for the taking? And how much freedom do we actually use in the true sense of the word? More than anything, do we, like the torsion pendulum, just keep winding around a spring, waiting to see how far it stretches without taking into account that it stretches enough to run a clock 24 hours a day?

Freedom, simply put, is just another word for nothing left to lose, whether you’re Bobby McGee or anyone else for that matter. And, as we approach seven decades of Independence, India has a lot to be happy about, albeit a fair amount we do still need to worry about. While not getting into the larger scheme of things, most of which need more than just a moment, let’s pause and take stock of the little things that really matter. Freedom is, after all, in the little things that keep the world turning.

Like the meme that says “I love free speech. I also love ignore, mute and block,” freedom is in the ability to speak your mind, but also the ability to ignore, mute or block out someone who is never going to help you be a better person. It’s a choice you make, for positivity and progress, for a better tomorrow.

Paulo Coelho, in his book Eleven Minutes, talks of “the true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the world without owning it.” Think of the times when we move homes, shift into new cities, or begin new jobs, or go to new universities, or say, return from holidays. More often than not, there’s that lingering thought at the back of your head that leaves you wondering what you’ll miss the most. Will it be a particular person, a favourite restaurant, the tree-lined avenues, or just that feeling of freedom that you, perhaps, experienced there?

There’s something about those tension-free mornings on holidays. Not worrying about switching off the alarm clock in your sleep, the assured knowledge that you’re not late for work, yet again; the freedom to wake up late, not follow a schedule; the freedom to stay in bed all day without setting foot outdoors; the freedom of not needing to be somewhere all the time. You see, this thing called freedom is so much more than the annual parade on national television; it’s a state of mind. Freedom is in the wonderful things we tend to take for granted, the numerous times we forget what things could have been like, the millions of times we forget how lucky we are.

Small blessings

Of the myriad things that we take for granted, here are a couple of things that are going to remain free, no matter who takes over as the governor of the Reserve Bank. It’s the unmistakable freedom that comes with contentment and the knowledge that you are blessed with a good life, something that many people can only pray for:

Gratitude: While material gratification comes easy, the freedom that comes with contentment remains irreplaceable. Stay grateful for everything you have and own, not looking for comparisons with yourself or other people. The grass may look greener on the other side, but the water bill there is probably triple yours anyway!

Cheerfulness: Smile therapy is free and always will be. There’s nothing to stop you from smiling, even if you feel like there’s nothing right with the world; for all you know it may actually ease not only your pain, but also that of the person you see next. You’re free to choose what you’d like to do, or not, with your smile today!

Friends and family: Whether you need them or not, they’re always there — and they come for free. With usually unwarranted, although probably needed, opinions on everything, from the state of the union to your cutlery. Ties that bind, and sometimes gag, are there forever, and just when you think there’s nobody who cares, your phone beeps. You’re free to enjoy the claustrophobia that only close family can bring with them, or avoid the only people in your life who truly want the best for you.

And, like Michelle Obama, you are free to choose optimism by seeking “hope instead of despair, hope of a better, more compassionate, less hateful” world. Freedom is not just some fancy word – it’s about who has control of what you own, what you build, who you want to be. The choice is yours, and your freedom is what you want to make of it. It’s the right to make choices, and face those consequences. 

So, as we head into that much-awaited long weekend, let’s make sure that we give our younger generation that freedom to learn, to make mistakes, to grow. For, how else does one find true freedom?

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