Free as We Want to Be

We’re as free as we want to be. Perhaps it’s a trite statement, yet with the Fourth of July holiday upon us, I cannot help but consider it.

Freedom is a choice. At least for those of us that are fortunate enough to live in countries where we aren’t punished for speaking our mind in private conversation or online. You need only look at Turkey’s ongoing crisis to realize that free speech is not certain in this world.

Yet many of us don’t feel free. We feel trapped by the rat race, that we’re not engaging enough online. We feel like we should meet preached expectations of social media success.

Some fear being viewed as positive or negative, or having our personal views and feelings exploited by friends, family, employers, and yes, the government. Others of us feel like we’re suffering through litanies of rants and negativity while desperately seeking meaningful connectivity.

Government and big business offer their own dangers, perhaps taking away our rights to privacy. In recent months we’ learned that our social network conversations are compromised via the NSA’s PRISM programs. The major social networks have a council of censors or free speech advocates (depending on your perspective) that decide what conversations should and should not be taken off the Internet.

Some of us worry about algorithms replacing us, from analysis to content. Big data is a scary beast that few fully understand. We worry that technology will rip the roots of civilization out from under our culture, turning humanity into an attention seeking swarm.

We are free.

Greek philospher Nikos Kazantzakis once said, “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.” Applied in reverse, we are free to worry and fear, prisoners of our own self-created bondage. Or we are free to move forward to better things which fulfill us, whether that’s by choice of focus, or by simply moving on. Heck, we can choose to not pay attention to any of it, and focus on only the moment.

We’re as free in mind and spirit as we want to be.

Understanding Free Choice

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Many of the things we suffer are direct or indirect results of our decisions. A mortgage can seem stifling, but who signed the finance agreement?

Let me give you a personal example: I could not get my novel published in 2004. It came close, but for whatever reason, the deal fell through.

This past January I decided to pick up the rock again, and publish Exodus. But rather than wait on the usual proposal process with agents and publishers, I chose to bypass all of it and publish independently. I was and still am free to publish without the bureaucracy of the traditional publishing industry. As Thomas Jefferson said, “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.”

But choosing to publish without the establishment has its consequences, including decisions to expend time and money to produce a professional product. Consequently, I was unable to invest time this year in many leisure activities that others enjoy. I incurred risk knowing the book may not sell, thus creating a potential loss for my business.

One could say I was trapped by my decision. Fatigue, mental drain, and a bit of weight gain were some of the other consequences.

Personally, I feel rewarded by the experience. I have never felt as free creatively.

Now that I am finished with the editorial stage, I can enjoy myself for a little while. Heck, I can choose to just publish the book at the end of summer, and not market it. But, I prefer to be read, or at least make every attempt to become read. Choice brings consequence and responsibilities that affect quality of life.

Everyone has a choice to think, focus and yes, do things.

People associate freedom as the feeling of being able to do anything. While I believe in free thought, I believe true freedom is an act, the execution of a decision, and then seeing that decision through.

I’m as free as I choose to be, but I have to be willing to take the action. When I choose not to act — which is an action in its own right — options disappear.

Restrained or Willing

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Life happens. Sometimes people do bad things or act for larger reasons that affect us. You can say that we lose the freedom of choice because of such acts.

For example, your spouse loses their job. Because your husband or wife isn’t working, you enjoy less mobility and feel like you can’t speak your mind as freely at work.

But is that really so?

I think we have a choice. We can choose to react or respond.  We can choose to fall down, or embrace challenges. Outcomes in life often come down to how we choose to invest our energy when the chips are up or down.

In his existentialist musings, Jean Paul Sartre said freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you. I get that.

Some of the most powerful examples of freedom come from prisoners of war and holocaust survivors. They were imprisoned in body, but free in spirit. For example, Viktor Frankl exercised the freedom to determine his own attitude and spiritual well-being while his family died before his very eyes at Auschwitz.   Vietnam War POW Roger Ingvalson said, “It’s very important to exercise your mind in prison.”

Freedom is something you can always cherish, even in the darkest of moments. It’s a choice, even if its only in spirit and mind.

This July Fourth

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This July Fourth I feel a great sense of freedom. Partly because of the book, which I noted above. Nineteen years is a long time to have an idea in your head. Simply getting it out is incredibly freeing.

But I am also free from the bondage of the in-crowd. I don’t need to nor do I adhere to any particular school of blogging or social media expertise. In the past year, I threw away the rules and perceptions of how I should blog and act online, and that’s been tremendously freeing.

I’m also free from the need to be popular online. I cut a blog post, shifted topics and formats, and took down share counts. All of these affected my popularity as a blogger negatively. All of them were the right decision for me as a writer. Incredibly freeing.

I am free in so many ways. It’s nice to know that.

And most importantly, I am free to be present with my family, and breathe this July Fourth. I can choose to not be online, to rest, and I intend to act upon those choices. So, no blog post on Friday.

How will you celebrate freedom this weekend?

29 Replies to “Free as We Want to Be”

  1. [First of all, I LOVE the fact that you chose to create hyperlinks that do not take you away from your post, and open in another window (except for the one:) You know that’s something I find most appealing on blogs.]

    I particularly resonate with the “willing to take action” and our choice to “think, focus (and my favourite) do”. Choice not chance determines our destiny. Without action, there are no results other than groundhog day. And of course, you know how I feel about the cult of popularity online.

    Thanks for the lovely tip of the hat, the constant inspiration I find in your words, and your friendship. They are gold. Cheers! Kaarina

    1. I’m glad you like the new design. Patrick did a fantastic job with this.

      Per our G-chat, I find it useful to remember that my misery is often either a) a condition of fatigue or hunger and.or b) a result of my own actions and decisions. As you say it’s not destiny. And when I do that, I realize that I am not really suffering, that it’s part of the journey, one that I freely chose!

      1. [The design is great, and you know how much I like not being taken off a post with hyperlinks:)]

        With many of the people I work with, once they realize/accept that it’s they themselves, and not external circumstances or conditions that create their action/reaction to the moment, the ah-ha lightbulb comes on, and they start living their lives in a very different way.

        Of course, there are many people who would rather stay in the blame game – blaming external circumstances, people, “the economy” for their situation/life/business woes, but those are the ones who choose never to move on: they remain victims of their own making.

  2. You are “ahead of the curve”, Geoff – and I commend you for it. Super congratulations on the book, and I look forward to reading it since I appreciate the genre. I’m curious how I will perceive it due to my own beliefs.

    I’ve said before that I chose freedom a few times: Choosing to go away from large organizations and become a principal of a software solution provider, and then choosing to sacrifice some of the benefits of ownership to make the right choice for my family…a choice that has blessed my family abundantly (even if not as much financially).

    Perhaps I will take the same steps of freedom and attempt a book at some point. I’ve been intrigued by the possibility, and I’ve seen several friends appreciate that milestone. Jury still out on what I would write about…

    1. LOL! Well, Erin Feldman edited it and her reaction — if I read correctly on Facebook — was to go to church the next day after she finished. I think the book muddles with power driven fundamentalism versus the true spirituality that Christianity (and other faiths offer). I think the end result is the right one that you would probably agree with… Getting there may be tough.

      I highly suggest writing a book. I think it teaches you to the about and approach the world differently.

      Great comment, Brian, thank you for sharing your experience as a business owner and father. Choice is important. So are results. Understanding which actions produce what results has been critical in my decision making, as it has in yours!

  3. “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

    You remind me of a TED talk I watched recently (on Netflix, of all places). There’s a lot of easy publicity built around bad news. As we are continually exposed to stories of wrongdoing and tragedy, we begin to frame our view of the world within those margins.

    I’ve been trying to break that mould, to ground myself in just how truly good I have it. The only thing I think we can really control in this universe is how we allow things affect us. Couldn’t it be said our existential selves are built on such foundations?

    Seeing you talk so openly and sincerely about such things recharges my own efforts to do likewise, Geoff. Here’s to doing stuff that matters. Never give up.

    1. If all we see is bad news, then we have to believe that there is nothing more but bad news ahead of us. It’s no secret that bad news draws more eyeballs, and so the media creates more of it. We are conditioned to seek it out.

      But with new web technology we can choose what we want to read and see, and find the encouragement that we need.

      Thanks so much for telling me of Your adventures, Brian. They encourage me, too.

  4. This is so inspirational for me. There are quite a few lines I’d love to quote, but then my comment would be as long as your blog! So, I’m going to comment on this one,

    ” I cut a blog post, shifted topics and formats, and took down share counts. All of these affected my popularity as a blogger negatively.”

    Personally, I never thought of you as a “blogger”. I’ve always thought of you as a person who has ups and downs just like the rest of us. If someone only followed/interacted with you because you were a popular blogger, than all I can say is “wow” (reacting to them). That is not why I follow or interact with people. Honestly, that would never even occur to me!

    Cheers to you and your family!

    Enjoy your holiday!!!

    1. Thank you for these kind words. It’s best to be human than and ideal, I appreciate that. Funny thing is I know exactly what it takes to double my traffic promptly, but I’m just not willing to do it!

  5. It’s so weird, I have a post riffing on (off?) freedom as well, except it’s not written yet (ha, I’m free from writing! not ;)), and I love how your post is making me think my own through a little bit more.

    Frankly, I am going to free myself from stress, at least for those few days. This too is a choice, isn’t it? To get bogged down by what happens, or to let it go, and say, “I’m done.” It’s tough to do, or maybe it’s tough to think about doing it, but the actual act of doing it is surprisingly simple.

    I’m very glad to know and call you “friend,” Geoff.

    1. You are my friend, no quotations. Make no bones about it.

      There is a great sense of relief when you decide not to play the game. In fact, it is quite empowering at times. Can’t wait to read your post!

  6. See that? Now, I have to edit the one I have slated for tomorrow. As for your consideration. I don’t think freedom is a choice. I think freedom is having a choice, as an individual. We’ve taken a few steps away from that, maybe.

    1. Hmmm, sounds like tomorrow’s post will be very interesting indeed! And looks like @Shonali:disqus is in the same boat. Sorry, guys!

  7. I’m so excited that you’ve finished the book! must be a great feeling, and I can’t wait to read it.

    this post crystallizes a lot of how I feel. I’m celebrating freedom by embracing the constant need to question. Over time, I’ve found that the questions are what guide us to how we want to live. If we’re not always asking “Why?” then what’s the point?! This small change in perception can make a huge difference with how we interpret, act, and make decisions in the world.

    Thanks for sharing your unique viewpoint in this post. And thanks for being such a supportive, inspiring (human!) friend. have a wonderful 4th! :)

    1. It’s an incredible feeling, and I am SO. Damn. Tired! I really do hope to get some rest before this thing comes out.

      Glad we have connected, and I appreciate everything that you do, too.

      As to the questioning, the word why is the very basis of critical thinking and intellect. Without it, we cannot be unique or evolve. Carry on!

  8. It’s interesting, at home. we’ve been having a long conversation about sacrificing a bit of freedom such as someone reading my asinine FB posts vs. a real lack of freedom we’re seeing in the world today. I say conversation rather than debate because we pretty much agree. It’s no contest. and as you said, I’m free to say something or not.

    I’ll be celebrating freedom of the brain at World Domination Summit this weekend. Although I don’t like the name at all, the agenda looks very good and I’m looking forward to being an attendee, and not a speaker, at an event.

    Thanks for the moving post before I sign off for the weekend.

    1. That sounds ominous, or testosterone blogginess. LOL. So I googled it. Portland, OR. Nice!!! Enjoy it!

      And I am glad you enjoyed the post. Our limitations of freedom online are self imposed as you know, but mostly because we don’t want the consequence!

    1. I find that presence is critical to be able to do this. I am not always there, rarely in fact.

  9. We really feel free after doing what we feel or want. But how many of us are free and truly do what he or she feels?

  10. I had not thought about freedom until I read your post. I would say that there is a freedom in deciding to be one’s own boss by becoming an authorpreneur. It comes at a price to freedom.

    When I decided I wanted to write books, I gave up the freedom of engaging in political discourse. There are far too many people who would not read an author, or form an opinion of the work, if they knew their stance. I want everyone to read my mysteries, so I must hold my tongue when I read illogical statements and NOT engage.

    After three years of “giving up politics” I have to say, it is freeing in its own right. Still, I do miss it from time to time, but until we live in an age where people are tolerant of other people’s views, I’ll choose to let the radicals fight among themselves, while I tell stories of mystery and the occasional giant guinea pig.

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