September 28, 2009

“Freedom’s Just Another Word…”

freedomI’m guessing that those of you who’ve listened to the Grateful Dead (actively or passively) can finish the above phrase. For those of you who haven’t, it ends,”for nothing left to lose.”

Right now hundreds of us are feeling we have very little left to lose. Let go from our jobs; told we aren’t getting a raise/bonus this year; asked to take on work so far outside our job description that we think we should have a new title (but, by the way, we’re not getting that either) it can be very tempting to lash out, or hide out, or simply be strung out.

Under the circumstances, who can blame us?

But here’s the tricky bit: even when the world doesn’t blame us, we tend to blame ourselves. I know very few people who blow their stack, duck the question, or procrastinate, who don’t end up berating themselves for their choice shortly afterward.

With this in mind, let’s consider the second half of the definition of freedom.

Part one says, “An absence of undue restrictions;” Part Two says, “AND (capital letters mine) an opportunity to exercise one’s rights and powers.”

Because here’s the thing: while it may seem like we have no choice, we do have one. We are free to choose how we respond to our situation.

And while it can seem facile, or simple-minded, or just plain stupid, for me to write this when so many of us have negative bank balances, I would have us consider the following quote from Thich Nhat Hanh: “A man is rich not in what he possesses, but in what he can do without, with dignity.”

(Dignity is a word you don’t see a lot these days, but I’m thinking it’s time for it to make a comeback.)

No, these aren’t easy times. They require a degree of self-knowledge, self-discipline, and self-correction few of us have had to exercise before.

But if we can– when we can– we’ll be both stronger and happier.

And we’ll experience lasting freedom.

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