In the U.S. we are about to celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July. This day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which was a formal statement of freedom from England (now the United Kingdom). It seems a particularly appropriate time to think about the concept of freedom and what it means to each of us.
Merriam-Webster defines freedom as the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. Let’s face it, freedom means different things to different people. If you ask a thousand people what freedom means to them, you’ll probably get a thousand different responses. For some, freedom means having the resources to meet their financial needs, for others freedom is a cure for a physical ailment, or from a political tyrant or a cancer cell. The core of all these ‘freedoms’ seems to be the desire to extricate ourselves from a particular situation we find ourselves in. The freedom from <insert negative thing or situation here>. This is not true freedom. True freedom must mean the same thing to everyone because if not, we are accessing only parts of freedom.
It is usually the case that we want to be free from difficult situations that we face in our lives. At the time that we are mired in our troubles, the only thing we can think about is a time in the future when we will be free of them, only learning later (if at all) that those situations were actually opportunities for great blessings and enabled us to grow to a new level of consciousness.
It is important to come to understand the true essence of freedom, rather than view the aspects of what our individual freedom means. If freedom does not mean the same thing to me as it does to my neighbor, then I am only thinking about aspects of freedom, not true and lasting freedom, which is the absence of all chaos, not just my personal chaos. People think that freedom is about getting out of a bad situation. It’s not. Freedom is life without chaos. Bad situations are just manifestations of chaos.
What God intends for us is nothing less than complete happiness and total freedom from any form of unhappiness, including death itself. -Rav Berg
In Days of Power, Rav Berg retells the story of the exodus, which most of us are familiar with, when Moses led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. When we think of this story we imagine that the Israelites must have been joyous at the prospect of freedom. However, when Moses first told the people that the Creator was going to free them from Pharaoh they replied, “We have no time for this.” After the escape from Egypt and upon encountering challenges, they begged Moses to take them back to Egypt! Does this sound like a people overjoyed at their liberation? Not even!
We are the same as the Israelites. We enslave ourselves in comfortable (often destructive) habits and addictions and feel no urgency to extricate ourselves. A smoker may feel a twinge of guilt every time they light up, but they keep smoking, time and time again. We enslave ourselves to things that feel good, that give us a temporary energy of happiness, but it is just that, fleeting. Rav Berg reminds us that the only true happiness comes from the Creator. Our ‘fixes’, be it gossiping, or shopping, binge eating, or pharmaceuticals are standing in the way of our connection with the Creator and ultimately, our true freedom.
The core of that which we would be free from is chaos itself. Rav Berg explained that everything that constrains us, that imprisons us is at its source, chaos — the real prison. None of us are truly free, not while chaos still exists in our world. You’ve heard the old saying, ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.’
When was the last time that you stopped and assessed your endeavors? Do you contribute to chaos or do your daily actions mitigate chaos? Are you an agent of sharing and change or do you contribute to negativity and strife?
We are all prone to focus only on our personal chaos, the quest for my freedom, rather than being mindful of all the chaos in the world. This is our ego working, which seeks to keep us apart from others. True spirituality and true freedom means being one with humanity, not separate or apart.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
True freedom is freedom from our ego. Care for others around you and focus less on your personal chaos. Notice how much more free you become!