It is popular and romantic notion to call yourself a free spirit: to dress yourself in flowing bohemian clothes, let your hair grow wild and wander about in sandals. Being a free spirit means having an air of mystery, of not being bound by traditional social rules, floating in the world like a dandelion in the wind. But faced with the reality of being a free spirit, of having to pay rent and buy food, many abandon youthful idealism in favor of a more secure way of life. These people were never really free of spirit – they were trying it on for size and relinquishing it when the hemp pants became too itchy.
But to be a real free spirit requires more than a wardrobe of linen smocks and Birkenstocks. It requires tremendous courage in the face of all odds. It means walking on a path of permanent uncertainty with no one but yourself for support. At times it will seem that the whole world is against you.
For some of us, it is the only way possible to exist. Since my earliest memories, I’ve been something of a rebel, a loner. When I was sent to summer camp, I preferred to sit alone on a rock ledge overlooking a mountain with a book than participate in the mandatory activities with other children. I always sought the call of my inner voice and fought anyone who would try to impose their will upon me. I eventually dropped out of college because I couldn’t stand being told what to do. I was fired from every regular job I ever had because I couldn’t grasp the notion of subservience.
It has made my life drastically more difficult. I had all the resources as a young person to follow a career path leading to a comfortable and relatively easy way of life. But I could not accept it all the same.
Freedom is the natural desire of our inner consciousness, of our soul. We want to float, to fly, to move without restriction or boundary. But for the illusion of security we will sell our freedom. For a salary, an apartment, a retirement plan we will give away life’s greatest gift. We will trade our wings for cements blocks tied to our feet and call this safety. The sky is too dangerous, we might fall, so it is better to stay on the ground where it is a little more certain.
In love too, we are willing to abdicate our freedom if it means that someone will be there to welcome us in the evening. But this is not love, it is simply possession in disguise. Love is two people flying together, with wings spread into an open horizon. On the ground, they can only look up longingly at the sky.
Freedom is waking up every day to a new possibility. Each moment there is a new reality to be created. Freedom is not being tied to any old ideas or situations. It is complete self-determination.
With this freedom is great responsibility. It means that only you are accountable for the occurrences in your life. You cannot blame anyone else; that is giving away your freedom, saying that someone or something else has the power of determination over you.
It takes enormous courage to shoulder this responsibility every moment of every day. There are bound to be moments of self-doubt, of fear even. You must either carry the immense weight of constant choice that total freedom confers or abdicate to live in a cage of your own making.
This path is frightening, exhilarating, liberating. It is not for the feint of heart or the weak willed. When you pass a fellow traveler, embrace them and rejoice. Help make the journey a little easier and more loving.