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The Sassy Side of Sixty: Freedom

by Niranjana Mittal

Dolly Koghar gives her generation’s perspective on what true liberation means.

There’s no living being that doesn’t crave freedom – to a lion or a parrot, it’s to roam unchained and uncaged in their own habitat. However, with our complex brains, our individual interpretations differ, moulded by where we live, the religion and ethnicity we belong to, and our social strata. But with exposure to education, media, and our human associations, the meaning of ‘freedom’ continues to modify. Circumstances too, force a rethink – for example, freedom weighs in very differently to Syrians than to Thais. Also, at different phases of life, what feels like liberation varies: as babies, to walk seemed the ultimate freedom; as children, we craved a release from the control of adults and teachers; in our teens, we wanted society to back off, and be allowed to follow our hormones. As job holders, we wish every day was a weekend, but that would be encroaching on the freedom of our helpers; who’d rather be watching TV, playing with the phone, or perhaps just lounging around doing nothing in particular!

It would be an undeniable truth that there isn’t a single soul, in any form, that’s tasted unrestricted freedom; the carrot dangles up-close, but never comes quite within reach. For us seniors, we’d love the freedom to be able to sit, stand, walk, eat and go to the loo, without assistance. Nevertheless, freedom is abstract and multifaceted and it’ll continue to modify itself with one’s circumstances, one’s personal growth, and of course, age. So below are what some of us consider as ‘freedom’:

•“If we’d do something for others simply out of love, without expecting anything in return.”

“Controlling the mind means complete freedom.”

“Real freedom is being free from worries and negative thoughts.”

“Freedom is to be devoid of any limiting inhibitions.”

“For a start, freedom is being free from fear; the list can go on and on.”

“Pursuing joyful and fulfilling activities, ones that are purposeful. The ultimate freedom is in trusting and surrendering oneself to God.”

“The ability to think as you want.”

“I’ll understand ‘freedom’ only when and if I conquer my mind, which I haven’t quite managed up till now, and I wonder if I ever will. Freedom is also allowing citizens to exercise absolute free will in elections, which even so-called democratic countries don’t really exercise.”

“Freedom starts inside of me; when I take total charge of my beliefs and thoughts without any fear.”

“Freedom is the ability to live my way and to pursue my passions without any restrictions from anyone outside of myself.”

Google’s definition of freedom is, “To be able to act, speak or think, without hindrance, and restraint.” In my youth, I was unrealistic and thought freedom meant to think, act, or speak without restraint or parameters while ignoring the consequences. But as I aged, my humble understanding of this word has become more nuanced. To explain the pitfalls of freedom of choice, there’s the analogy of Adam, who was faced with the temptation of the fruit forbidden by the Lord. These same pitfalls are inherent in the universal laws and the judicial and legal systems – we’re free to choose to break them, but we will have to suffer the consequences. Moreover, I wonder if it’s ‘freedom’ to cross the ‘acceptable’ lines of society by behaving in currently ‘trendy’ ways? When our elders and teachers advised us to never, ever experiment with addictive substances, we exercised our freedom of choice and thought some aren’t quite as bad, such as alcohol, cigarettes, or marijuana. But for many who chose these ‘freedoms,’ a single try meant a lifelong dependence. Enlightened souls have also warned us of the pitfalls of addiction, not only of substances, but also of becoming addicts of our human digressions. But we, as always, demand the “freedom to experiment” and it’s brought us to where we are today.”

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