Today my daughter said something that rather took me by surprise. She is the kind of kid who studies everything with zeal – checks her sources and tries to get a balanced view on everything. No quick educational experiences for her. As a matter of fact she has become such an ardent historian that I often find myself referring to her to find the best sources of info about dates and periods in history. Her specialty is American History from Colonial Times to the Civil War. And so, as we were ending our school day – though in fact it never really ends – just changes…she surprised me with the comment; “We were a much freer people when this country began than we are today.” Hmmmm Just what a concerned mother wants to hear. But I think her perception isn’t far wrong. Perhaps I do not have the data that she has to come to such a conclusion but I do have the intuitive sense to realize that she is on to something and I don’t mean just politically or fiscally.
In years past Americans had to fight for everything. We had to fight to own land, for freedom of religion, for freedom to speak and write what we thought, freedom from bigotry at all levels, freedom to educate our kids as we thought best and freedom to become something that other’s didn’t think we could.
But today the loss of freedom I am referring to – which my daughter may not have even considered for I don’t think it is in the history books – is the freedom of will. When I look around and see people, talk with people, engage in serious and even playful conversations the same topic always seems to come up. Everyone is so busy – everyone seems pushed to the limit. Time for deep thought – Nope. Time for art – nope. Time to prioritize our lives and our loves – Nope. Amazing that the people in ages past did remarkable works of art, created lasting documents which changed the world, considered their lives and the direction humanity was taking in long ponderous conversations but today we are lucky if we have time for a stupid sitcom….certainly no time for creative innovation beyond the technological kind. And it isn’t just about a loss of “time” – its about our energy level – our capacity for deep meaningful…anything. Is this what “freedom” is all about? Freedom from ourselves? Have we lost ourselves in pursuit of life’s pleasures and release from manual work?
Yes, it is true that we have been freed from servile work to a remarkable degree. We have greater power at our finger tips than any generation in history – yet I have to wonder what it has cost us. Are we free? Our minds are so full of information that even our hearts are exhausted. Important issues surround us but we are becoming powerless to address them as we sense an overwhelming onslaught of stuff and informational overload. So we shrink from the endless struggle of keeping up and we turn on the t.v., the radio, the computer and we engage in a disengaged reality. But is this freedom? What is “freedom” in our world today? To do what ever we want? Well…if that is the case – it might be important to know what it is that we really want…What is important for our well being…Dare we ask – Why we exist in the first place?
Like I said, I was surprised by my daughter’s comment because though I know she was talking about the legal and fiscal system in our country and the knots we have tied ourselves in – I think the proposition has a greater base. It is a very good question and though I do not have the answer, still I think it is worth asking – are we free?