What is it about freedom that is so appealing to us human beings? Why does Nietzsche spoke so proudly of “us, the free man”?
He said that god is dead, that we killed him, and if he is dead someone asks, who is making the rules? Nietzsche says: Nobody! and if nobody is making the rules, then anybody can make them.
The power to make, create your own rules, the ultimate power, lies in your hands. However:
There are a few men whom slavery holds fast, but there are many more who hold fast to slavery.
We are scared of freedom, we care too much.
We care about how we look, we care about what other people think about us and in doing so we hold fast to slavery as Seneca says.
To make your own rules is to choose what you yourself like and don’t like and be open about it, this is living virtuously and from truth. Your truth.
A free man has a great responsibility, most people scorn freedom. It is a heavy burden, to be free.
A free man must choose on his own accord what is best for him, but how the hell can he know what is best for him?
We can certainly look around and get an idea of what is best. We can learn from the great ones and take what we feel goes with us and simply not put attention to what does not resonates with us. But, the ultimate choice to be anything is ours.
What is deep inside us? what are we? What is it in us that wants to be free?
Maybe, precisely this is what Nietzsche was referring to when he said that if you stare long enough at the abyss, the abyss will stare back. Scary to know yourself so deeply and without filters, but it is in that innermost space where ultimate freedom is. That thing in which we must put our hopes in, is the self (that thing that stares back from the abyss).
Not choosing voluntarily to be free has its consequences.
“Escape from Freedom attempts to show, modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds, or to lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man but an automaton.”
― Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom
Sounds eerily familiar doesn’t it?
When we don’t choose to make our own choices, they are going to be made by someone else.
Making choices is hard, it requires courage and a leap of faith must be made.
“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”
― Jim Morrison
Go lock yourself in your room, meditate, think about your life.
If you are quiet long enough what will happen is that you are going to begin to see all the chatter of your mind, most of it is not even yours, repeating the same old stuff.
It’s not even original, it’s boring, everyone is thinking about the same things: work, my likes on facebook, money, looks, men, women.
It has become blatantly boring We need differences and variety. We need more clash of ideas, from this class comes the creation of new and better ideas. Authenticity will not be welcomed nicely, you can be sure about that, but you have to train yourself in your truth and in your willingness to be free, if freedom is what you want.
“Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance
Of course, as previously said, this requires courage , face your fears of rejection, claim your freedom.
“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.”
― Jim Morrison
“Freedom lies in being bold.”
― Robert Frost
To finish this quick review on quotes on freedom, I’d like to remember Frederick Douglass.
I believe there are very few men who have as him tasted the sweet flavor of freedom more joyously.
Frederick Douglass, as you might already know, was an american slave and later prominent writer during the 1800’s. He eventually gained his freedom, not without an unimaginable terrible toil of years of wretched slavery and shameful experience . There is a particularly strong passage in his book Narrative that goes:
I therefore resolved that 1835 should not pass
without witnessing an attempt, on my part, to secure my liberty.
But I was not willing to cherish this determination alone. My
fellow-slaves were dear to me. I was anxious to have them
participate with me in this, my life-giving determination. I
therefore, though with great prudence, commenced early to
ascertain their views and feelings in regard to their condition,
and to imbue their minds with thoughts of freedom. I bent
myself to devising ways and means for our escape, and
meanwhile strove, on all fitting occasions, to impress them with
the gross fraud and inhumanity of slavery. I went first to Henry,
next to John, then to the others. I found, in them all, warm
hearts and noble spirits. They were ready to hear, and ready to
act when a feasible plan should be proposed. This was what I
wanted. I talked to them of our want of manhood, if we
submitted to our enslavement without at least one noble effort
to be free. We met often, and consulted frequently, and told our
hopes and fears, recounted the difficulties, real and imagined,
which we should be called on to meet. At times we were almost
disposed to give up, and try to content ourselves with our
wretched lot; at others, we were firm and unbending in our
determination to go. Whenever we suggested any plan, there
was shrinking—the odds were fearful. Our path was beset with
the greatest obstacles; and if we succeeded in gaining the end of
it, our right to be free was yet questionable—we were yet liable
to be returned to bondage. We could see no spot, this side of the
ocean, where we could be free. We knew nothing about Canada.
Our knowledge of the north did not extend farther than New
York; and to go there, and be forever harassed with the frightful
liability of being returned to slavery—with the certainty of
being treated tenfold worse than before—the thought was truly
a horrible one, and one which it was not easy to overcome. The
case sometimes stood thus: At every gate through which we
were to pass, we saw a watchman—at every ferry a guard—on
every bridge a sentinel—and in every wood a patrol. We were
hemmed in upon every side. Here were the difficulties, real or
imagined—the good to be sought, and the evil to be shunned.
On the one hand, there stood slavery, a stern reality, glaring
frightfully upon us,—its robes already crimsoned with the blood
of millions, and even now feasting itself greedily upon our own
flesh. On the other hand, away back in the dim distance, under
the flickering light of the north star, behind some craggy hill or
snow-covered mountain, stood a doubtful freedom—half
frozen—beckoning us to come and share its hospitality. This in
itself was sometimes enough to stagger us; but when we
permitted ourselves to survey the road, we were frequently
appalled. Upon either side we saw grim death, assuming the
most horrid shapes. Now it was starvation, causing us to eat our
own flesh;—now we were contending with the waves, and were
drowned;—now we were overtaken, and torn to pieces by the
fangs of the terrible bloodhound. We were stung by scorpions,
chased by wild beasts, bitten by snakes, and finally, after having
nearly reached the desired spot,—after swimming rivers,
encountering wild beasts, sleeping in the woods, suffering
hunger and nakedness,—we were overtaken by our pursuers,
and, in our resistance, we were shot dead upon the spot! I say,
this picture sometimes appalled us, and made us
“rather bear those ills we had,
Than fly to others, that we knew not of.”
I can’t imagine a harsher situation than that of this great man. Today, we feel that we are slaves to our 9-5 job or our situation but it’s quite helpful to know just how much power there is in a human being. Frederick eventually gained his freedom and lived to tell us about it.
Like him, claim yours. Everyone has a struggle but is precisely in the overcoming of our struggles where freedom lies.
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