“You’re Free To Go”
I heard the old song on the radio while standing in a queue to pay for a few items at the Dollar General store. One of those weekend country music countdown shows had featured the Jim Reeves standard as a “flashback” song.
During the walk home, the music played in my head:
“You’re free to go, darling, I’ll break the ties that bind
Somehow the dreams we planned have gone astray
You’re free to go darling so ease your worried mind
I’ll never stand in your way….”
–Don Robertson and Lou Herscher
Reeves’ performance of that melancholy lament caused me to think about many of the implications of “free” and “freedom”. In the song, one lover is letting go of the other lover. He is allowing the lover to be free of any obligations to stay. As in all such partings, freedom is a bittersweet event. The sad acceptance of one lover at the end of the relationship is paired with a feeling of relief by the other lover. It’s not all sadness and gladness. The situation is nuanced for both parties. Perhaps he is also guilt tripping.
One of the quirks of being human is that we grant ourselves freedom and we restrict our own freedom. We do the same to our fellows, too. In the case of Reeves’ tragic love affair, he is granting emotional freedom to his lost lover. Of course, the lost lover had already claimed her freedom on her own. She did not require permission to be free. The singer only freed her from emotional ties.
“Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself–and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to–letting a person be what he really is.” –Jim Morrison
We humans have probably the most free minds. Among our mental attributes are self-awareness, creative imagination, and conscience. We are free to choose how we combine and use these attributes in daily life. We can imagine the world as our oyster or, conversely, that it is our prison cell. We have the mental power to comprehend change, and whether or not to choose to respond to change.
One might argue that this freedom to choose is only possible in countries that are not ruled by narcissistic, tyrannical despots. While this seems true on the surface, history is filled with heroes and heroines who felt personally free to cast aside the chains of tyranny and to lead freedom movements. They understood that they could either choose to exist in constrained, traditional roles or they could choose to champion the cause of self-determination in the spirit of freedom. Whenever strict social institutions have shackled the people to tradition and obedience, there have been people advocating and fighting for their freedom.
In order to strive towards freedom our heroes and heroines had to pay a price. They either paid with their lives or had their freedom further restricted by imprisonment. They exemplified the truism that freedom isn’t free.
One of the most beautiful freedoms is freedom of thought. Until the day when technological devices will be able to read our thoughts and dreams, we can think and dream anything we wish. There are absolutely no restrictions on what we can ponder, contemplate, and imagine. The most repressive regime may employ brainwashing and torturous techniques to its victims, but those victims are still completely free to think as they choose.
Even if one does not live under the iron thumb of a traditional dictatorship, a person may choose to be her or his own prison warden. Self-imprisoned people believe that humans can only have a few, trivial freedoms. When someone breaks free of narrow-mindedness, a whole, new expansive world of possibilities and freedom is revealed.
In its most positive form, the authentically free person loves her or his freedom so much that they hope everyone can have the opportunity to discover their own freedom. What better way to enhance one’s own freedom than to allow more and more people to explore their own freedom. Freedom is not like cake, in that if freedom is shared there is less freedom for me. Freedom is more like geometric expansion. More positive freedom for others is more freedom for me.
The feeling of being free is one of the most exhilarating sensations. The only way to not experience the beauty of freedom is if one is afraid of freedom. Yes, there is such a thing as fear of freedom and millions of people suffer from it. Eleutherophobia is the technical name for this fear. Ironically, people who are most afraid of freedom believe that possessing freedom means having more responsibilities–they dislike that proposition.
Then there are folks who only want freedom for themselves and their own social subgroup. Their desire to restrict rights and freedoms of others creates a restricted state of mind for themselves. People who wish to abridge the freedoms of others become suspicious, anxious, selfish, and tyrannical. These tendencies reflect another truism: freedom wants to be free.
I have one more thing to say about freedom. Thank you for feeling free to read my blog today. I hope this enables you to think more freely about being free.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Holocaust survivor, neurologist, psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”