The Daily Throb Of Freedom

“We have been told that Freedom is the ability to pursue petty, trivial desires when true Freedom is freedom from those petty, trivial desires.”

Russell Brand ~Revolution

Let me take you back to October, 2013. I was living in the Bay Area, Northern California, in a house on the edge of a sprawling urban landscape. Those were the days of predawn alarm clocks abruptly tearing me out from slumber. I wondered how unhealthy it must be to be jolted awake like that morning after morning after morning. Cavemen in cold, dim caves slept better. The stress of such disturbance, the hit of hormones that pump through the brain and body in those first minutes of consciousness, must take a toll. All that chased by the morning’s cup of coffee? Even junkies and alcoholics on skid row aren’t as doped up that early.

Those were the days of traffic. An oozing river of fenders and tail lights piloted by bitter, high strung blue and white collars. The city of San Francisco loomed like a giant, metal and glass organism on a daily pulse, breathing in the fresh and alert, breathing out the spent and exhausted. These were people moving through life in the same way their cars crawled through the congested concrete chute. Slowly, without opportunity for deviation, and toward a distant exit somewhere down the line.

The tragedy is those hordes were sold a false version of freedom before they knew any better. ‘Freedom’ was defined for them as a Starbucks Frappuccino and an Apple iPad. Freedom was defined as a day away from the office to mow the lawn and shop for curtains. Freedom for them is drinking cheap beer and paying to watch athletes compete for manufactured glory. Freedom in that form is a bag of potato chips; airy, greasy and unsatisfying. A processed notion that tastes vaguely artificial. It wasn’t for me.

The freedom of a simple life has substance.  It appeals to me like fresh fish cooked over a campfire. It provides sweet, mild nourishment like a bowl full of fruit. But simple freedom has been warped by American culture into something that resembles vagrancy. To spend days reading books, enjoying nature, learning instruments, creating art, strengthening relationships, and pursuing all manner of personally esteeming, and mostly free, activities is disdained in a society fixated on acquisition and consumption. A life so oriented is viewed as frivolous. As my awareness of this cultural disdain grew, so did my own disdain grow for the society that exalts billionaires and prioritizes opulence over character.

Perhaps in decades past, when food and clothing and housing were scarce, a frivolous life seemed selfish. But society today is abundant to the point of excess. Technology today has and can relieve the burden of production from so many. But instead of relieving the masses of work, technology is used as a tool of enslavement.

The irony is that many of those enslaved live in the land of the free. These people’s lives are framed by tragic irony which fertilizes an acrimonious breeding ground. It’s no wonder they seek escape. These people are forced to reconcile a ‘work-hard’ lifestyle with a ‘play-hard’ counterpart just to justify it all. True escape is beyond their reach. Bound by mortgages, kids, student debt, social ties, and the fear of diving into the unknown or losing a sense of security.  Many have resigned to routine. They’ve consented to servitude because it’s comfortable or necessary.

I remember the first few weeks on the job. I’d smile at fellow commuters.  I’d pity the endless mob with their blank stares and hollow eyes, forever frowning into the bumper of the car in front of them. But I succumbed eventually, and too became another blank bloodcell in the vein of urbanity.

Those were the days of clocking in, standing in a loud shop, doing dirty, monotonous work, eating a hurried lunch, clocking out, and coming home too tired to focus on the interests that would lead to an enriching life.

But I was fortunate.

I only lived on the edge of that lifestyle. I’d glimpsed a small part of the world, seen a life apart. I wasn’t surrounded, like they were, in the pressures of friends and family, or deafened to alternatives by the constant cultural hum. There was a light at the end of my tunnel in the form of extended travel. I had the chance to pursue a fate of my own design. And I gritted through those months, stolidly focusing on my eventual departure.

That is how my story began. Saving to save myself. Working towards a Freedom of my own design. Driven by a thirst for greater substance.

Now I’m on the other side of a year’s travel focused again on stacking paper.

I’ve grown immeasurably this past year. My reasons for travel have evolved into something completely different, as has my character. My motivations are no longer based on personal intrigue.

Now I seek something greater.

Thank you for reading.


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