Merriam Webster defines freedom as “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.”
Here is how I define freedom: The ability to think and act of one’s own volition, independent of outside control.
In other words, freedom is the ability to make our own choices in life, consciously and intentionally and without constraint.
The things, events and circumstances we end up experiencing in life are usually the result of the choices we have made. The choices we make, over time, about what to believe about ourselves and our place in life, about what to think and how to think, determine who we become as individuals.
Who we are determines what we do. What we do determines what we have. It is a simple formula: Become, Enact, Attain.
So, if the choices we make about what to believe, how to think and then what to do determine the results we get in life; then, if we don’t like our results, it becomes obvious that all we need to make different choices. Simple. Right? However, that is only if you are free to make different choices. But what if you are not free at all?
“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Most people believe they are free; but they are not. They do not consciously and intentionally choose what to believe. They accept inherited believes without question. They do not consciously and intentionally choose what to think. They think about what they are programmed to think about. And they studiously avoid thinking about anything that may challenge their fundamental beliefs. They are enslaved by invisible chains of unquestioned habit.
“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” ~ William James
The invisible chains of enslavement are many; but the four strongest are:
1) cultural indoctrination, 2) fear, 3) willful ignorance and 4) intellectual indolence.
1) Cultural indoctrination: I have written before about how the emerging science of memetics is used by cultural engineers to shape the beliefs, thoughts and behaviors of the general populace. The media you consume is programmed to program you. You might be of the opinion that you are being informed or entertained by your consumption of media, but, in actual fact, you are being molded into a compliant consumer of mental viruses that inhibit your ability to think for yourself.
2) Fear: There is always another bogey man for you to fear. When one loses its effectiveness, another one is manufactured. The name of this enemy you must fear is unimportant. It could be Emmanuel Goldstein or Osama Bin Laden. It could be Ebola or Swine Flu. It could be Climate Change or Economic Collapse. It could be Gulf of Tonkin or Sandy Hook. Whatever the name, the bogey man is used to control you.
3) Willful ignorance: Almost everyone practices this. If something appears that challenges one’s worldview or basic beliefs, instead of looking deeper into that discordancy, it is pushed aside, intentionally ignored so that the habitual comfort level can be maintained and so that difficult or distressing change can be avoided. As a simple example of this, I will tell you a story. When the DVD of Genetic Roulette was released, I bought it and sent copies to several people I cared about. Some time later, I asked one of those people if they had enjoyed it. The response was, “I could not watch it. It was too scary. I’d be afraid to feed my kids anything.” A refusal to be educated in order to avoid changing behavior. Many people refuse to look deeper into the facts surrounding the events of September 11th, 2001 because they do not want their worldview challenged. The same goes for chemtrail deniers who classify the subject as conspiracy nut fodder. It is just too much information that could cause extreme discordancy and so willful ignorance is the choice made.
4) Intellectual indolence: All of us are, at times, lazy. And sometimes laziness is the inspiration that fuels the desire to find or create an easier way to accomplish something. But sloth, or habitual laziness, is abhorrent and enslaves the practitioner into, at least mediocrity, and at worst, a failed and useless life. Far worse than physical laziness is intellectual laziness. The human mind is a miracle with a capacity for learning, innovation, creative thinking that is seemingly boundless. Despite having been endowed with such a gift, most people hardly ever use it to capacity and many hardly use it at all. In fact, learning new things is resisted instead of relished; and truly independent and intentional thought often seems rarer than the Amur Leopard.
Ask someone “what are you thinking?” Chances are you will not hear anything original, let alone interesting. Ask them, “why are you thinking that?” and you will probably discover that they have no idea. Nothing original. Nothing intentional. Perhaps the greatest tool in the universe (the human mind) unused in most cases and even terribly abused in many others. Sad. All of it due to intellectual indolence and all of it chaining people to lack, limitation and enslavement to forces that profit from their lack of freedom.
Do you think I am exaggerating? 42% of US college graduates never read another book after college. 80% of US families have not bought a book within the last year. 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
Break free of the chains that bind you. Opt out of the cult of your culture. Stop consuming the cultural propaganda. Turn off your TV. Stop ignoring those uncomfortable pieces of information that show up. Opt instead to educate yourself. Exercise your mind. Read good books. Start thinking for yourself. Start asking why again like a two year old. Question everything! Including your most basic beliefs and your habitual thought patterns. Become free.
It may seem like a paradox, but this is the way it is: the more responsibility you accept, the greater your freedom. When you accept the complete responsibility for your beliefs and your thoughts, which control your actions and produce your results, you become free to create, for yourself, an empowered, creative and contributory life. Your life takes on purpose and meaning. Joy and fulfillment are your rewards.