Isn’t that the most arrogant title? How to be free. Here, in 9 easy steps, let me show you the way! It’ll only cost you some lost time and lost self-sovereignty, believing that anyone else could tell you how to be free. It amuses me, though, to put on this feathered advice-giver costume, pointing and flourishing, putting on a show. Hint: it’s just a show, loves. You are the arbiters of your own freedom. You get to decide your own values, your own priorities, your own reactions to circumstance. You can rail at injustice and oppression and destruction, or not. You can insist that you are not free because of the dozens of yokes and balls-and-chains you drag around your mortal coil, or not. You can whine, sulk, agonize, grieve, perk up, grin, skip around, worry, cower, rage, breathe peacefully, or not.
But just for fun, I’m going to pretend I’m a pompous bastard and tell you how to be free, anyway. And, look, a bonus! It’s a numbered list, to give us all the illusion that it can be quantified, and all anyone has to do is take it step by step, and voila, liberation.
Thanks to Skye Daniels for suggesting the topic of freedom, and thanks to Keith Vansickle for the subtopics of freedom (with the exception of “relational freedom,” which I added at the end).
- Personal freedom. Stop caring what everybody else thinks. You don’t feel like taking a shower? Don’t take a shower. Everyone else does some supposedly-normal thing, like sit in a metal box on wheels for hours among other metal boxes on wheels, but your heart revolts? You be the one who abandons the metal box in the breakdown lane and go walk through the woods. You feel judged for your current dimensions, skin color, age, gender, disability, background, sexual orientation, whatever people get judgy about? Love yourself anyway, and not begrudgingly, not because you think “Oh, I’m supposed to love myself before other people can love me and approve of me,” but because you know you’re the bomb diggity. You can’t love yourself? Your self-love is broken? Choose to put everything on hold while you become a student of your own heart.
- Political freedom. Find out what “anarchy” really means. Question your allegiance to the State. Question your supposed security and well-being under that State. Question your supposed leaders. Decide that the whole edifice of hierarchical government inevitably leads to mental, physical, and spiritual slavery and that we are better off self-organizing and bearing responsibility for ourselves and our immediate, local, interdependent communities. Give yourself the irrevocable stamp of authority.
- Intellectual/educational freedom. Decide that schooling is enslaving by design, from pre-school to graduate school to academic life. Refuse to submit to a monolithic entity that presumes to dictate what intellectual standards consist of. Refuse to believe that if you jump through the dozens upon dozens of hoops of supposed intellectual achievement, which are really just bits of papers and pomp and artificial legitimacy, that you will somehow reach Intellectual Olympus. Believe instead in your own innate intelligence and that of others, no matter if you or they have been cast as stupid or degenerate. Learn about everything you want. Become a roving librarian. Become an independent learner. Facilitate the independent learning of your kids, your parents, and your neighbors. Do this because you love it and your mind wants to grow, and you want that for everyone close to you, too.
- Verbal freedom. Say and write whatever you want, as grungily or tidily as you want, no holds barred. If you have secret truths burning inside you, speak them. Cast off your shame shackles. Do you think the world has never witnessed anyone as shameful, messy, twisted, pathetic, or mediocre as you? Do you think you are more than a speck? You are a speck, dear. You can be a roaring one, or a silent one. It’s all the same in the end.
- Economic freedom. Resolve to wean yourself from money as much as you can. Get your needs and wants met in as many non-monetary ways as you can. This will enable you to focus much less on Having a Supposedly Good Job, the best of which still require you to trade your precious time for money, the worst of which chew up and destroy your soul. Realize that you are not going to live forever and you don’t know for sure if you will be reincarnated or go to heaven or experience divine consciousness or whatever, and you would rather live now, and that the evolution of life was probably never geared towards supplying the voracious, howling appetite of industrial civilization. Learn about gift economies. Become a gift economist. Become giddy, giving gifts of all sorts. Practice receiving gifts with grace.
- Religious freedom. Be as religious or non-religious as you want. Be kind. Don’t be an asshole.
- Physical/spatial freedom. Stretch whatever limbs and senses and muscles you have. Don’t allow yourself to be defined by your limitations. Ask yourself, what can I do? How far can I reach? Push the boundaries. If you are imprisoned or held hostage, do whatever it takes to preserve the core of freedom inside of you; seek help; bolster your strength and resolve; know that your spirit can remain unchained. If you can move your body, move it, deliberately and joyfully. Hit the road. Become a vagabond.
- Artistic freedom. Know in your bones that the only one who can revoke your status as an Artist is you. Don’t do this to yourself. You were born to be creative. If you think you aren’t, someone has filled your head with lies. Find the modes that make your heart sing. Don’t view this as “extracurricular.”
- Relational freedom. Love everyone you love, fully and well. Refuse to close down your heart to protect entrenched, cultural notions of possession and jealousy. We do not own our lovers, our spouses, our children, our friends, or anyone else, and they do not own us. Treat your loves of every sort with respect, kindness, and honesty. Treat everyone that way. Trust in your heart’s integrity.
What are you waiting for? Go on, now—be free. If you are already free, or experimenting with freedom, or too scared to be free, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.