Artwork by C. Pembroke
Freedom is not Free
We've been coasting down the river. Not in the ideal situation, not seeing better, good enough. But now is opportunity. If we dig deep, keep up resistance, and swing with momentum, we can cross into a better current. But Freedom isn't free-- both on the personal level and for our country.
Working toward dreams is liberating, but hard work. Regardless of the challenges, fighting for dreams-- for freedom-- takes vision, persistence, and vigilance.
A good vision is inspired and authentic, daring and far-reaching. How to find it? Throw yourself out of your comfort zone, listen to disparate opinions, read widely. Be patient in a whirlwind of inputs, and wait for ah-hah moments. Notice a gravity to some words and images over others. Let ideas and images percolate. Over time they will assemble themselves into a coherent vision.
Persistence is not easy. A helpful concept from the military is Last Known Reference Point. In the woods, a city, or far in the ocean-- pick a constant. Something that you will most always see. Within an individual, memories serve. They come as wispy interruptions, cyclical annoyances, lead weights. Follow those that strikes closest to your core.
Be vigilant. Intertwining the positive course, a ribbon of negativity lies. As we embolden ourselves, we are tempted to replace pride with contempt, determination with inflexibility, charity with righteousness. Let every choice feel like a teeter totter on a precipice. Each word is an opportunity to be authentic or stray.
And for our country?
Vision. Our Vision is not large enough. It does not speak of the life work of much of our population, nor does it fit into a cohesive world vision. People and countries across the globe are competing and cooperating to form the future of a more unified human race. We in the U.S. love our founding principles of freedom, and are willing to fight for it. Good. It is not a given that it will continue, and it would be a terrible shame to let it fall. On the other hand, there are many things that are lacking in our society, that we tend to hide when at the discussion table with other cultures. That's wrong. Others in the world see our weak points (i.e., greed, consumerism, chemical dependency), and are driven to fight against them. Why not study other wisdoms, and open ourselves up to be changed, as we change others.
Persistence. In the 5th grade I learned that Chinese businesses and government had a longer-term world view, and as such, were better able to complete major infrastructure projects. We in the U.S. have a short rudder with 4-year terms for government officials, and quarterly demands of stock investors. It's worth remembering that not all cultures are so. We have to work especially hard to be persistent. What is our Last Known Reference Point? For many, it's 9/11.
9/11 does not just belong to those working anti-terrorism. It affected each of us in a unique way. For me, it meant I had to get active with art and writing and force myself to grow out of a small box. It affected Peace Corp workers, corporate fundraisers, tax analysts, shipping clerks, foremen,... It gave us all an added sense of urgency to work more fervently at our life's work. When Hurricane Katrina hit and trucks piled full of lumber headed south, I could feel the urgency to be a part of the gears of this working mechanism, our country. By following our own authentic visions and respecting each other, each of us will do our best work, and sum total, our country will thrive.
Vigilance. Some joke about nuking ragheads, while others glorify draft dodgers over soldiers. As we embolden ourselves, we are tempted to replace pride with contempt, determination with inflexibility, charity with righteousness. In listening to JFK's speeches, he sounded like a loving father reminding the people of their best selves. In today's world of many voices, how do we encourage ourselves? With the internet, we are becoming a meshed network. Like schools of fish, cheering in a stadium, birds migrating south. Forwarded emails breed love and hate. Acknowledge this power and responsibility, and choose wisely.
Friends and family say they don't want children, because the world has gone bad. But we are children of pioneers, immigrants, veterans, slaves. Our parents survived the Great Depression and World Wars. We have skills, resources, and strong blood. We need to take hold of the reins.
I learned pride in country when I was 22 in Prague. A Czech sold me crystal glasses, proud that he owned his business, "like in the United States." Our vision of freedom has served as a light for others across the globe. Many have come a long way. Currently we are the world's power, but nothing lasts forever. It's in our own long-term interest to play well with others.
With compassion and openness, we as individuals, communities and nations can best play our competing and cooperating roles toward a winning future.
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© C Pembroke 2019
May we find our vision, learn our way, define our path, and meet our purpose.