This is the second in my ‘On … ‘ series — an opportunity to practice writing pure exposition.
Freedom and security — two words which when I unpick them, reveal (to me) how closely aligned they are. Let’s take them in turn:
What do I desire to be free from? Pain, loneliness, hunger, boredom, some other people, fear, worry, unpleasant surroundings, my own ego, anxiety, habits. I could go on.
Wanting freedom (to be free from) is a universal human desire. We also want to be free to … do, experience, be, say …
What do I desire to be free to do, experience, be, say? Travel, create, speak my mind, escape, move my body, choose. I could go on.
Life’s circumstances can prevent us from attaining freedom from and freedom to, but ultimately, I believe whilst I am alive, whilst I can breathe, I can have freedom, a freedom in my mind.
If I have my breath I have freedom. I am alive. Essentially, freedom is having a mind and being able to detach from it. We are not trapped by our body or our mind. True freedom comes from being self aware, knowing ourselves and the workings of our mind and how to detach from it and observe. We are not our body nor our minds, therefore we have freedom.
Victor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who endured the horrific sufferings in Nazi concentration camps. With little control over his physical circumstances, he discovered his own deep sense of awareness and control over his mind. He was able to find freedom by transcending the misery, pain and suffering. He says “Man does not cease to be an animal, but at the same time He is infinitely more than an animal. … Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
When unpicking security, in my mind I followed two strands of thought — on feeling secure and on being secure.
Feeling secure is a sentiment, and can be transitory and fleeting. Being secure suggests something different, something enduring and substantial. There is a dichotomy to consider though: the very things that help us to be secure are in themselves temporary — they have us feeling temporarily secure — because the very things that we believe help us to be secure can at any moment change.
Consider these meanings of security:
Free from apprehension
Free from danger
…. and notice the free from words.
I believe we can never be secure as we can never (in this life) be free from danger (or any of the other examples I gave earlier). Can we however be free from apprehension and therefore feel secure? Yes, if we can develop self awareness, observing our minds and finding:
- acceptance of death
- making our peace with suffering
- being receptive to presence (the being with someone / something / some deity)
- forgiving ourselves and loving ourselves
My belief is that freedom and security are not mutually exclusive and as human beings, we strive for both in our lives — I know I do — to provide the fulfilment we desire. I see security as the firm foundation for freedom. Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — from the bottom of the triangle we have:
- love and belonging
Security sits squarely within safely needs, but what about freedom? It is not explicitly mentioned within the famous diagram, but my belief is in reaching self-actualization as Maslow describes, it is akin to true freedom.
And my writing ….
I am currently exploring ‘writing lives’ and gathering material for my book. To explore how I feel about big themes like freedom and security helps me formulate and order my thoughts. Ultimately is it helping me discover who I am. This is useful when considering the subjects in my book; only when I can be clear about what I think and believe, can I place myself with another and consider their thoughts and feelings.
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