It’s a terrible feeling and a freeing experience to have your illusions destroyed.

Title: Trapped leaves 2 | Author: Annette Dubois | Source: Flickr | License: CC BY-NC 2.0
Title: Trapped leaves 2 | Author: Annette Dubois | Source: Flickr | License: CC BY-NC 2.0

As I walked down the streets of Saigon and watched the army trucks full of terrified, tough kids purposely drive through mud puddles so that they could laugh gleefully as the brown, polluted water splashed randomly on the elegant, white, long dresses of the beautiful Vietnamese women I knew my view of the world had been irrevocably shaken.  In the name of freedom, we denied the Vietnamese their right to freely choose who they would be and how they would live.

Were these mud-splashing kids evil? No. They were unwitting victims of a systematic campaign to dehumanize a nation of people they knew nothing about.

 No, they knew nothing about the long history of a long appendage of Southern China who had resisted the Chinese, thrown out the French, and would now out-last the mighty Americans. They knew nothing about the individual lives and aspirations of this largely Buddhist nation who was trying to scrape out a living and find some meaning in a relentlessly demanding life. They were duped to believe in an illusion that America was there to spread freedom in the world.

Freedom is typically defined as the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. 

Freedom is often defined in the negative.

There are many tangible ways to be in prison and slavery is the worst of evils, but there are intangible ways to be imprisoned or enslaved as well, perhaps the greatest of which is to be trapped in our illusions.

Title: The $1.50 Roll | Author: ffunyman | Source: Flickr | License: CC BY-NC 2.0
Title: The $1.50 Roll | Author: ffunyman | Source: Flickr | License: CC BY-NC 2.0

Alan Schwartz, a long time instructor at the Gestalt Institute and Esalen, says “our greatest delusion is to think we are not crazy!”  Destroying that illusion is one of the most freeing acts we can take. Gurdjieff’s mission was to “mercilessly destroy the beliefs we have about ourselves and the world. So here’s a freeing truth:

The world is crazy and we are crazy. We all have demons or saboteurs or dark sides whether they are named or not, and whether we are even aware of them or not. The quantity and quality of the sages and saboteurs in our psyche may vary, but none of us is entirely sane.

In my view, if we want to be truly free we need to free ourselves from the intangible prisons of our mind and to make more effort in our lives to create think, relate, love and serve in more innovative ways.

Specifically, we need to free ourselves from:

  • the tyranny of normalcy
  • the illusion of security
  • the fighting mind
  • the acquisitive mind
  • the tribal mind
  • external controls and restraints
  • the prisons of our mind
  • the ideological mind

And we need to make conscious effort to free ourselves to:

  • actualize our own changeable destinies
  • generate new responses to changing conditions
  • love
  • think
  • develop a soul
  • serve

In the song “Me and Bobby McGee,” Janis Joplin sang, “freedom is just another word for having nothing left to lose.”  When the inmates I served in a jail rehabilitation would quote that phrase, I would reply, “Freedom is also having no choice because your values are so clear.” You can feel trapped because you don’t know who you want to be and you want to be more in control of your life.  In my view, we can be trapped in so many ways.  The only way out is to know who we are, what we want, and then create the responses required to feel more free. Perhaps a place to start is to confront the illusions we have about ourselves and about the world.

Also published on Medium.

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