Freedom is the only worthy goal in life.
Freedom, the most desirable and appraised state of the human being. The most marketed as well, all wars are fought on the basis of this universal value.
We all like to think of ourselves as free individuals.
We are not as free as we think we are, however, at least not as free as we could be. Freedom is one of the hardest things to come by in life, it is not a gift, it is voluntarily taken.
What is freedom?
Why can a person refer to him or herself as a free person?
The most common answer is: “because I can do whatever I want”, But honestly, do you actually do whatever you want?
The first definition that appears on Google is:
The power or right to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
We are very free in many senses, especially today, but there is, however, something impeding this freedom of ours from manifesting entirely, something we are not even very conscious about and that is fear.
Fear makes us be wary. Be cautious of the terrible monsters that can kill us. Those terrible monsters. Failing, what are they going to say? Will I be able to stand it?
Fear and freedom cannot fit into the same category. And yet, easier said than done right? What about quitting your job? You are very free to do that. But, and there is always a but, what if you can no longer afford that car you want? These are the hard questions.
What if I quit my job and start a surfing business in Zihuatanejo( an honestly beautiful Mexican beach)?
Yeah, but what if I don’t get any clients?.
Fear permeates the decisions of all of society.
But fear should not define your actions. If your decision is based on fear and not on objectivity, you are not being truly stoic.
“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”
Because a truly stoic decision is based on objectivity and not on fear.
“For what prevents us from saying that the happy life is to have a mind that is free, lofty, fearless and steadfast – a mind that is placed beyond the reach of fear, beyond the reach of desire, that counts virtue the only good, baseness the only evil, and all else but a worthless mass of things, which come and go without increasing or diminishing the highest good, and neither subtract any part from the happy life nor add any part to it?
A man thus grounded must, whether he wills or not, necessarily be attended by constant cheerfulness and a joy that is deep and issues from deep within, since he finds delight in his own resources, and desires no joys greater than his inner joys.”
By now, I believe it has come the time to talk about the stoic indifferents. The concept of the stoic indifferents is a simple one. Virtue is the sole good right? True, nothing will make us happier than the pursuit of what is in our power since the beginning, which is the power to exert virtue. However, what about the things outside ourselves? Like riches or social status.
The Stoics are quite clever, they are extremely practical when it comes to the living business. An indifferent is something that is not under our direct control, anything that is not virtue. It can be health, money, a beautiful girlfriend or boyfriend, you get the idea.
There are preferred and unpreferred indifferents. It is just logical that we all prefer the preferred indifferents. Objectively we should pursue the indifferents that will make our lives richer and better. We are free to do that.
If you look at any decision in your life, and you judge it objectively, the obvious decision is to take the preferred indifferent. Fear gets in the way of making us take the wrong choices. This is why the Stoics talk so much about death.
“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.”
If you knew that you were going to die tomorrow you’d do many things differently. Trust me.
If the consequences are minimum and you deem that your life will be happier if you take that decision and you still don’t do it. You are not being truly stoic and objective in being true to yourself for what you know will make you happier.
You are afraid of life and afraid of society and deciding to play by someone else’s rules, instead of your rules.
Later in life, that decision, not made by yourself but by your fears, is what you are going to regret, this is lack of freedom.
A good thing to exercise is to have as few regrets as you can. Honestly, you can do almost anything if you set your will and mind to it.
Fear is being used against you.
Not so long ago, we did not have houses. We did not have fire to cook at any moment, we didn’t have so many sexual options either.
Scarcity was the rule.
Fear is a very powerful motivator, it is so powerful that society as a whole can be manipulated by it, and we are.
Fear of missing out?
That is a famous one these days. If you have Facebook or Instagram, you will surely know who Dan Bilzerian (a famous poker player that has lots of girls and guns on his Instagram).
What you will not see, is a picture of a girl just waking up with her drained makeup from the last night party and a severe hangover, of course not.
What you will see is a picture of some bloody mary she is going to have, and of course, filters making everything beautiful.
You’ll see your friends riding a motorcycle, getting married, and everyone life will look just plainly fucking awesome.
All of these social pages are supposed to connect people. But are we more connected?
Connection is a human need. When you connect with someone, you feel really good, dopamine and other good substances are released into your head. You get that sensation of “I really like that guy/girl”.
What about all these stories? Do you feel they connect you, or do they just show you what you should be doing?
This feels more like someone else giving you rules to follow, doesn’t it? Why does FOMO even exist?
The fear of missing out creeps in. And you really don’t want to miss out, because if you miss out, you will no longer be part of the “circle” so you should be doing what everybody is doing and this is great! for marketers.
Fear is a very powerful motivator, and if I as a marketer know what your friends are doing and considering cool at the moment and maybe I found out as well that you do not yet have something as an iPhone or something else, I’d use that fear of not belonging to sell.
Are we really free? With all these fear going around?
If freedom is the only worthy goal as Epictetus said, should we be so concerned with all of these?
Is freedom really that desirable, or the fear of missing out, and social rejection more important than freedom?
Freedom is within our control. But it is not as we picture it. Freedom is not the idea that we’ve been sold.
Freedom is personal. People do not generally like people who are really free.
It’s kind of scary to be free you know?
Freedom means independence, having to take your own decisions.
Most people will readily take the decision that has been made already by other people (mostly marketers) and lives with that. That is how most people live.
By now, we can begin to understand Nietzsche when he said:
The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
Your voice can only be found deep inside. It’s hard,
Because once you start acting against your fears, with courage you start to realize that your voice is quite numbed, almost forgotten.
You start to realize you were just living as a slave. A slave of fear.
The hard part of freedom is realizing it. We think we like the stuff we like because we took the decision to like it, but most of our identities are just based on fear.
Why is freedom so praised?
Life is rare, very rare. The chances of this whole thing to happening are extremely little. Not being free is not really being alive. It’s more like a zombie state, we do not use our brains, not even our hands or anything. It is as if we are being dressed by Instagram like we are being told what to feel and what to talk about.
The tiny glimpses of freedom are praised because we realize just what a wonderful and magical thing this is. But you have to see it for yourself. The cost is the realization that your beliefs and what you considered your identity to be are really not yours at all.
The cost is going deep on the questioning and discovering that the identity you thought you were is just a manufactured idea tossed out for commerce and gain.
Questioning oneself is hard. Not doing what everybody else is doing all the time is hard.
That is the cost of freedom.
I believe everybody feels freedom from time to time. It reminds me of the book in Road to Wimbledon of George Orwell.
George Orwell, narrates beautifully, how I think it really is. We are being sold constantly stuff that stinks, but we cannot breathe it’s true odor because we cannot breathe correctly or see correctly. We are so numbed, so naive to what is really happening. The following narrates the sad realization of our lack of freedom of which we get glimpses of just sporadically:
The train bore me away, through the monstrous scenery of slag-heaps, chimneys, piled scrap-iron, foul canals, paths of cindery mud criss-crossed by the prints of clogs. This was March, but the weather had been horribly cold and everywhere there were mounds of blackened snow. As we moved slowly through the outskirts of the town we passed row after row of little grey slum houses running at right angles to the embankment. At the back of one of the houses a young woman was kneeling on the stones, poking a stick up the leaden waste-pipe which ran from the sink inside and which I suppose was blocked. I had time to see everything about her—her sacking apron, her clumsy clogs, her arms reddened by the cold. Shelooked up as the train passed, and I was almost near enough to catch her eye. She had a round pale face, the usual exhausted face of the slum girl who is twenty-five and looks forty, thanks to miscarriages and drudgery; and it wore, for the second in which I saw it, the most desolate, hopeless expression I have ever seen. It struck me then that we are mistaken when we say that “It isn’t the same for them as it would be for us,” and that people bred in the slums can imagine nothing but the slums. For what I saw in her face was not the ignorant suffering of an animal. She knew well enough what was happening to her—understood as well as I did how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling there in the bitter cold, on the slimy stones of a slum backyard, poking a stick up a foul drain-pipe.
We all have the right to freedom and yet nobody seems to really want it. Just from time to time we realize that we are capable of having it.
You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire
Seneca, On the Shortness of Life
Lack of freedom is bad for society.
“The more the drive toward life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive toward destruction; the more life is realized, the less is the strength of destructiveness. Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life.”
― Erich Fromm,
Freedom, true freedom, not the cheap idea sold to us is what will make society thrive, and yourself with it.
Stoic answers intend to spread a modern look on stoicism. With problems of today.
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