Sunday, November 25, 2012

to be free

To be free ... what a crowd-pleaser.

Little or large, the notion sings and soars. From nations to tribes to families to school kids; from mental to physical, "freedom" fits and beckons and gets a free pass ... and yet....

Two nights ago, the pain in my legs was severe enough to wake me shortly after 2 and insist that I relinquish the idea of sleep. I got up and the rest of the day was spent on the fragile edge of things, working out the pain in one way or another. This morning, I got up after a more normal six or seven hours of sleep. I wasn't pain-free, but at least it wasn't the ball-buster of the night before.

And it occurs to me that to wish to be free of pain is a 100%-pure longing in a time of pain... much like the longing to be free of some mental black cloud or to be free from the horrendous clamor of war or to be free of whatever other circumstance seems to chain and chafe.

To be free ... this is no damned joke! This is serious! This is a longing that no amount of idle, blissful chatter can overcome. The philosophy maven or religion-tinkerer may stroke his chin with judicious solemnity and ask, "so what is freedom?" but in a time when freedom is desirable, the only sensible answer is, "why don't you go piss up a rope?!" This is beyond the bonbons of morality. To be free is serious.

But what interests me this morning is wondering ... once the freedom desired is the freedom attained, what becomes of that freedom and where does the pedal-to-the-metal yearning go? To be free was worth fighting for, praying for, sweating for, screaming for. It had parameters, however vaguely defined and they were s-e-r-i-o-u-s.

So ... once "to be free" is in hand, what happens? What happens personally ... I don't want some segue into history or philosophy or psychology. What really happens?

My legs don't hurt as much today as they did yesterday. I have learned not to expect to wake up pain-free, but there are increments of pain and today is better than yesterday. I am free of yesterday's arrows ... and ... if the truth be told ... I forget all about the freedom I pined for. I forget the yearning. I have, so to speak, attained the freedom I longed for and ... I pay it no mind...I am complacent in it... and perhaps arrogant, no matter how much I may mewl about "everything changes."

Those (including me) who make a profession of remembering the 'sacrifices of the past' or 'the victories attained' or "the freedoms won" are pretty boring over the long haul... maybe a little like those who claim to recall the smell of a fart long after the fart has disappeared on the wind.

Perhaps the all-fired certainty about "freedom" is not quite so certain after all. Maybe what is called freedom is like what is called love ... it's just something to use or abuse, but in any case has no meaning other than to give it away... or live it ... whatever the hell it is.

Yearning to be free ... and yet when actually being free is in hand, who in his right mind preens or extols? This is the way things are supposed to be ... until the next time... until yearning raises its head once more ... yearning for ... for ... for....

The Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said, in a case involving pornography, "I may not know what it is, but I know it when I see it." Or that was the gist of his remark. Obviously if I knew anything about freedom, I would not have wasted so many words here. But given half a chance, I can whine and wax rhapsodic with the best of them about the parameters and need for freedom... from/to slavery, from/to anguish, from/to injustice, from/to Sunday....

But, irrespective of my ignorance, I think it's worth a little examination ... yearning to be free when, assuming that freedom is attained, there is nothing at all to claim as freedom. I may yearn to have no pain in my legs, but when there is little or no pain in my legs ... well ... I crank up the yearning machine and forget all about my legs. I am free, it seems, to shackle myself anew and yearn for some new and improved freedom ... again.

Maybe it's a good idea to find the place where "again" is born ... again.

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