Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is Freedom Doing Your Own Thing?

Recently I cleaned out some old files. I found delightful little snippets of insights tucked away; they were forgotten over time. Today these quotes would be online, but in the old days we received our quotable wisdom "Xeroxed" on a piece of plain white unrecycled paper.

I thew some of them away, but this one - I have to share.  Unfortunately, as with many of those quotes, the author is unknown.

This one is entitled "Doing Your Own Thing - Is That All?"

There is to me a terrible agonizing loneliness in trying to live for the self alone. Fritz Perl's declaration of freedom has often been quoted, "I do my thing and you do your thing." The quote is actually:

"I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I; If by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.

There is some valid truth in those words as well as some extortions as well. To me there comes an underlying sadness as I read them. How much more appealing is the version written by Gestalt psychologist, William Tubbs:


If I just do my thing and you do yours,
We stand in danger of losing each other
And ourselves.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations;
But I am in this world to confirm you
As a unique human being

And to be confirmed by you.
We are fully ourselves only in relation to each other;
The I detached from a Thou

I do not find you by chance;
I find you by an active life
Of reaching out.

Rather that passively letting things happen to me,
I can act intentionally to make them happen.
I must being with myself, true;
But I must not end with myself:
The truth begins with two.

Back to my insights:

When I was young, ideas flowing from Perl and Ayn Rand were exotic. As a kid working on my need to individuate and break away from limited beliefs, I counted on it being okay for me to be me, and I thrived on rugged individualism. I did not want to be a compilation of others' expectations or needs. But now I am an adult; I do as it says in First Corinthians 13, "When I became an adult, I put away  childhood things. " As an adult, I clearly understand the interdependence of friends, families, communities and countries and understand that me doing my own thing was an integral step in growing up - but it was only one step of many. If I started walking over a bridge and stopped in the middle and stayed there, I would never get to the promised land.

It is sad to see those whose growth was stumped, those people standing on the bridge. They are emotionally challenged especially when they see the world only through the eyes of me, my, myself and mine. This mindset is the genesis of the need to control, power grabbing and the fear of lack.

Sometimes I am afraid of people that seem to be in life only for themselves. I forget that they are still like children, clutching to ideas and actions, that they believe will make them safe and lovable.

Freedom for me arises when I give up my fear and forget about protecting myself from people who differ from or disagree with me.  Mind me, I am not talking about living in a physical war zone, I am speaking of living in an ideological war zone. Freedom comes when I choose to love first. Freedom comes when I choose to love before the other person understands me or likes me. Safety comes when I show up in life undefended, unwilling to put up walls or to erect verbal angry righteous walls.

Our country is polarized. One of the talking points in a certain belief systems is, "Freedom is not free." This is a great truth; however, freedom for one cannot come at the expense of another. Freedom is not free because freedom means giving up our need to be right, our need to win and our need to triumph over others. Ultimate freedom is an internal state.  Freedom is more about not being washed around by emotions or not freaking out over world events and conditions.  Freedom comes when we live by an internal code of ethics that makes no ones existence wrong. Freedom can not be bought, legislated or fought for. It was imperative to free slaves with a legal decree, but prejudice and hate still haunted the lives of then freed slaves as it does today for those of color.

I'm skipping around here with the word freedom - it is a word we use so often -  we casually throw that word around, but to me freedom is what I seek. I am not seeking a freedom from the oppression of others, I am seeking freedom from the oppression of me. Freedom to me is about freedom from the ego. And I will say that the more I remain present and open to life as it is, without mentally figuring everything out and just letting what is, be - the more freedom I feel.

So back to us - together. We are not islands. We think we are independent as a unit, but how many of us grow our food or provide fuel for the cars we need to take us to work. Where does our money come from? Other people. We are woven together in our physical needs and in our emotional needs. I thank William Tubbs for reminding me and hope that you know that I know that we are in this together. For better or worse.