“Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains,” said Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his time. Who puts the chains on us that deny us freedom? That is the question. Is it the environment or ourselves? Or is it just the nature of life? The answer depends on the depth of our contemplation.
From infancy, people are obliged to do all kinds of things. Babies are born, fed, and nurtured along certain paths as part of their development. Even if they do not want to receive medicine, for example, it is given to them. Then they are sent to kindergarten, to school. They have to get up early, get organized in a hurry, follow a rigid schedule all day, listen to things that do not necessarily interest them, and do homework. As we raise our children and prepare them for life, they have no freedom of choice.
Because a habit becomes second nature, we do not feel like we are handcuffed. We have become accustomed to the boundaries and conditions that have been set, and we feel free within those boundaries. We unconsciously just let life drive us: studies, career, family, status, successes.
There are those for whom the question of freedom and independence does arise. What am I actually living for? What is the essence and meaning of my life? Just buying a house, a car, going on vacation once in a while cannot be all there is to life. Even if there were to be a new discovery of how to prolong life in good health, would that give me a sense of freedom and make me happier? These are the ultimate big questions that each of us will eventually face.
Misery, at its core, stems from the realization that our life is limited and lacking, without a big and clear goal that we can achieve. Exactly this is the feeling of slavery, literally. If in the past people still managed to turn off the internal questioning by burying themselves in all kinds of mysticisms and religions, today this works less and less. It is no longer purposeful.
There are those who believe that being free means being independent and without any reliance on others. Is such a thing even possible? Because whether I am an employee or self-employed, an entrepreneur, a junior employee, or an executive, I am still dependent on many factors that limit me.
And if I could escape from all the limitations and dependencies on others to a desert island, sitting on a beach that belongs only to me, all alone, would I be defined as free? After all, at every moment new desires would arise in me forcing me to pursue and fulfill them at all costs.
So as we delve deeper into the question of freedom, we discover how vague the notion is. Life, however, has its own dynamic and we evolve from year to year. Sooner or later, even if all our material needs were already fulfilled and there was abundance of everything in the world, the question, “what are we living for?” would come to hound us.
Eventually, each one of us will discover that personal freedom can only be achieved by building a new kind of relationship between us: good, unlimited reciprocal relations. Evolution is moving us, the human race, forward toward such an integral connection, and within this connection that we will discover a completely new kind of life for ourselves.
Like children who run around the house in joyful abandon next to their mother who they know will take care of them and prepare everything that is good for them, a sense of freedom will grow within us as we develop love and closeness in the relationships between us. An assurance will grow that I will not have to defend myself against you and you against me; my heart will be open to you and yours to me.
The genuine human connection of mutual care and consideration will free us from worrying about ourselves and rid us of stress, problems, and struggles. The power of love and giving will fill all of creation, and this is the integral force that connects all parts of nature into a wonderful seamless fabric for an ultimately fulfilling existence.