Freedom. Freud claimed that: “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom assumes responsibility and most people are afraid of that responsibility.” Are you one of those people who are afraid to assume responsibility? And if we were to explain freedom in one word, just one, would ‘responsibility’ be the one?
I enjoy watching movies and extracting their morale messages. ‘Ana Horra’ (I’m free) was an Arabic film for the famous Egyptian actress Lobna Abdel Aziz. Watching it in my teenage defined the meaning of ‘Freedom’ for me. Every time I heard this word my subconscious recalled the meanings I got from the actress’ actions. She rebelled against the rotten traditions and norms. She insisted to proceed with her studies at University, which was uncommon for women in Egypt in the early years of the 20th century. And afterwards she started working and living for a cause beyond herself, standing against corruptions and supporting political activists. This was the meaning of Freedom for me. To rebel, to do what you want even if it’s uncommon and to live for a higher cause. I lived for decades believing this was freedom.
In 2013 I watched ‘A long walk to freedom’ which was a chronicle of Nelson Mandela’s life journey. Nelson happened to be a political activist and was imprisoned for twenty seven years. Then he went out of jail forgiving his enemy and focused on writing history in his own terms. My mind got confused. The meanings of Freedom I had earlier were shacked and I started to study his example. He rebelled, he was imprisoned; which meant he wasn’t free to do what he wanted like Lobna in Ana Horra. Then he did the uncommon; forgiving his enemies, and he lived for the cause all his life. My conclusion was that they both rebelled. They both did the uncommon and lived for a cause. Yet she did what she wanted while Mandela was imprisoned for almost three decades, which caught him from acting freely. My mind got stuck. Was Mandela a free man or wasn’t he?
To solve this riddle I started to read about freedom. Malcolm X saying doubled my confusion: “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” Then how Mandela had peace and forgiveness while he wasn’t free? my mind objected.
I spent hours thinking of freedom and observing people around me. Wondering about the example Mandela had set for mankind. Changing history and crafting his destiny while spending twenty seven years enclosed in a tiny room with metal bars on its small window. Freedom. What is it?
Greta Garbo, the Swedish-born American film actress in the 1920s and 1930s, opened me a new perspective by declaring that: “Freedom is a state of mind”. Reaching this understanding I thought again about Lobna Abdelaziz who acted freely and Mandela who thought freely and I developed my simple and basic definition of freedom. A state of mind that empowers people to take the responsibility of their own lives, to rebel against what they disapprove, to accept what they can’t change, to make wise choices, to stand tirelessly for their own principles and values, to have courage to do the uncommon and mostly to live for a higher purpose. With this definition, do you consider yourself a free person?
How is your state of mind? Are you in peace with what you can’t change? Are you taking the responsibility of your own life? Don’t wait for people’s permission to be you. “The best freedom is being yourself,” Jim Morrison.