What’s Holding Us Back?

If you were to be living out your dreams, at this very moment—

Where would you be?

stairs

In Louisa Alcott’s novel, “Little Women,” there is a very sentimental scene where the four sisters and their friend are describing their personal ‘castles.’ By ‘castles,’ they meant their greatest aspirations—where they hoped to be in the future, and what they most dreamed of doing. Most of them were far-fetched, seeing as they were ‘poor’ folk. Nonetheless, they dreamed of it, and…

I don’t know.

I just can’t help wondering, every day, what the world would be like if everybody were living in their castles? The world would be a better place, one would assume. Well—if I were living in my castle, I would be stopping to talk to anyone who feels unsatisfied or dejected, no matter their outward appearance. I would not let the sight of rags stop me, nor the flash of tear-shielding screens. I would be on the road, delivering letters anonymously in hopes of cheering strangers up. I would be cleaning streets, parks, and lawns of all trash, and spreading words of kindness, educating others—especially children—on how precious this Earth of ours is. I would be in so many places in this one castle of mine.

But now and again, I also wonder; what exactly is holding me back?

What is holding me back from living in my castle, this very moment? I know, many would say that the only thing keeping me from my castle is myself. Though, I really do wonder; if I didn’t have to worry about going to school every day in order to get into a good college, to get a good job, to earn money to ‘live,’ then I would be chasing my castle right now. I believe I really would. Or, at the very least, I’d be living some more alternative, hippie lifestyle. A freer lifestyle.

After analyzing these aspirations of mine, I’ve come to the conclusion that what I wish for with all my head, heart, and soul, is to be—that’s right.

Free.

It’s such a loose term, I know. So, I have crafted a personal working definition on what it means to be free:

“The ability to pursue one’s dreams without fear of consequence, or hindrance of self-despising spirit.”

Perhaps that ‘freedom’ is roosted in the tallest tower of my castle, yet. Not because I am consciously holding myself back, or because ‘society’ is holding me back—but because it is ourselves who hold the world back.

Weird, right?

It is inevitable that the words and actions of one person affects another, and can ultimately contribute in dictating the outcome of that person’s life. The effects are not always direct, of course—but nothing can be undone. A choice is forever.

We all know that the students currently attending grade-school did not make the laws. I’m sure that half of them would opt for alternative learning methods, if going through the system was not ingrained in national policy. A policy that was created by politicians at least two centuries ago, a choice stamped into eternity.

Having an income. Acquiring a diploma, promotion, whatever it may be—these are only things we desire because it further secures us of ‘life’; of survival, comfortability. Laws, custom, society, mentality—they may interfere with our freedom, but they’re also an attempt to guarantee us security.

Legislations created by people of the past, prosperity for people of the future. For us. Monarchs, dictators, prime ministers, and popes—even the nicest leader of the bunch—will never be able to grant us freedom. Liberty is a humble synonym, and is available to us as long as we function within the realm of society’s rubric of legality. It is people who make our lives spin round, not any one individual. Whether it was that Massachusetts governor, or your boss’s twice-removed step-cousin, their existence is inevitably intertwined with not only yours, but everyone else’s, existence.

It does not matter if someone made a choice ten minutes ago, or ten centuries down the line. Everyone’s decisions impact the world we live in (and even beyond). Sure, I didn’t ask to attend school, and perhaps you didn’t especially desire that desk job with the expectations that it would make you happy, or free. But somehow, some way, each one of us has been ushered into a situation that we feel is holding us back from something more—and substituting that ‘something’ with a lesser reward.

Our castles are fleshed out in moats, soldiers, iron gates, the works—and with all our security, of course it is difficult to reach that very precious room on the top floor without being told to, “Please take a walk down this staircase, first.” Or, “If you want to reach that room, you’ll have to please go down this hallway.”

It is only in the name of your security, of course. The world wants us all to be content. So, it is only rational that we all follow the same customs. Customs which were created by—yes. By people, like you and me, as consequences of the choices they made.

Us. Society. The world.

We hold ourselves back for the sake of saving ourselves. Rules and custom are tactics of defense against uncertainty. There is no security in a world without custom. Chaos is the consequence of disregarding our constructions, so we tell each other. We are so daunted to climb up to that tallest tower, where our aspirations reside. Where our dreams, freedoms, risks, await.

Why?

We point each other in different directions; I choose to save you from uncertain expeditions, so I point towards the plasticine yard. You feel my aspired heights are outlandish—and beckon me to first landing, instead of the third.

We hold the world back. We do it all with our best intentions, but fear of failure has tugged us into a treacherous circle of dependence on those who know so little of our lives. Think about it—how many life choices have you made where you weren’t pressured from those who didn’t know you? Are you living with the choices you were forced to make, or choices you truly desired to make? If you had no fear of others’ opinions, or the societal consequences your dreams might entail, would you have chosen differently?

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What Is Freedom?

What is freedom?

Today…freedom means solitude. Complete aloneness. It’s…being apart, detached from everyone—separated from the confines of government policies and society, from the pressures of friends, of family. To be completely united with yourself and God, or any one almighty being that you hold true and reflected within yourself to guide you. Or no being, at all. Just to be free—from there is the only guidance you will need.

Freedom is being able to glance outside and stare at stormy clouds, watch lightening flash between sheets of rain shooting through the slits of your window screen, and run out there. Run out there, singing at the top of your beautiful lungs, and keep on running until you crave a modest cup of tea.

Freedom is throwing away all materialistic notions, fleeing to a drastic landscape—forget about the cost of getting there, drop the suitcase, and abandon all ‘what-ifs’. Just go. Climb to the top of a redwood tree and perch there for a couple of years, fight for the resurrection of California’s astounding rainforests, just as Julia Butterfly Hill had—for every rainforest. It is for your freedom, too.

But here’s a ‘what-if’ worth mulling over—is it even possible to just drop everything you think you love, everything you know you need, and just leave? Literally hitch up a tent and live off of your own will and admiration for Earth and nature? As if you were in your own little fantasy world—someplace where you could do anything you wanted, be anyone you wanted to be. Go anywhere you want to go, live the life you want in order to really be free?

To have the solitude? The aloneness?

The thrill of sailing around the globe on your own, and actually seeing the stars out at night?

Really—when was the last time you have actually seen the stars out at night? I’m referring to the real things; not just a few pinpricks of cloud-obscured light here and there.

It isn’t possible. Not in this century, at least, and certainly not in centuries to come—not with how bureaucracy is increasing its grasp on life itself, not with how cameras are sprouting up in every nook and cranny of the planet. No one is ever completely alone, not here, not now—not with the camera lenses boring down at every street corner, not with the government rifling through every interaction and action taken abroad the vast technological system of the internet. Even running into the rain and singing would be regarded as ‘suspicious,’ or, ‘concerning,’ perhaps. Your neighbor would call up the police right off the bat, assuming you were intoxicated, or the like—let your imagination run wild with that.

But would anyone ever assume that it is because you simply felt like getting wet? Just to feel pure, invigorating water slide across your skin? Just for the heck of it?

They would not. In the end, you would most likely get carted off to the psychiatrist’s office. At this point, you would be regretting that little excursion into the rainstorm. You wouldn’t want to do it again—why risk wasting an hour of your life stuck inside a stuffy office, in exchange for a brief five minutes of chilling, pulsing adrenaline bliss in a rainstorm?

Why would you even try do it in the first place if you knew the consequences?

Right there, is the problem of the twenty-first century. These days, society is so strict and tangled with layers upon layers of regulations and rules, that people forget how to let go of it all. Or perhaps, we know what we want—the freedom, the ability to go un-judged—but we get lazy. Or dismayed. Intimidated by society, by the inevitable consequences if gone disobeyed.

In all honesty, if you wanted to go sprinting into the middle of a rainstorm, or run away, or sail around the globe, you could—you could totally do it. But there are two ways of doing this: with solitude and pure freedom, or with the interconnections and aid of society.

Within the former circumstances, you would do this all illegally, of course—or is there a law against sailing around the globe, or one that corresponds? There must be. There’s a law for everything these days, it seems—and even if there isn’t, you will be looked down upon by society, by family, by friends. Search parties would be sent out overseas hunting for you, your face will be pasted on the front page of all newspapers. And, as soon as you return, microphones will be shoved to your lips, and relentless interrogation flung this way and that.

Society just doesn’t understand the purpose of freedom—the purpose of the solitude and the risk. In present day, life is so confined to our mundane routine and the ever-shifting, minor spice of daily drama that we often forget about the choice of solitude and freedom. So, when a blatant act of freedom is caught out of the corner of the eye, we must know more. We must know why. We must know how this came to be—how could a person risk their job, risk their future, risk their own life in order to embark on such a daring feat as sailing across the globe?

It’s not like it’s the time of swash-buckling pirates with hidden troves of gold, marked with a fat, red X on a piece of parchment. What’s the purpose? If not for any sort of prize or bribery, then there is no purpose to doing something like that at all, is there?

Society would gorge on your answers and regurgitate them out into the world, so that everyone, everyone, can know about this brilliant, dangerous action you’ve chosen to take. But then eventually, people will settle down, become one with their own ordinary, humble course in life until the newscaster shines light on someone else’s noble act. They will feed on it just as they have with your experiences, and then the event will quickly fade from their consciousness and become cobwebs clinging to the very rear of their thoughts—still there, still significant, but no longer satisfying.

Then, the cycle shall continue.

The world has lost connection with their own will, their own sense of adversity and spark of pure inner challenge. We lack it terribly in today’s developed society, because we truly believe we already have everything we need, that there is nothing more in the world to discover—however, all the materialism greatly overshadows the one aspect of human nature that is most delicate, most valuable, most promising. That is the solitude. That is that free-spirited nature, the will to let go. The adventure of self-discovery through defeat, through risk.

That is why society craves the stories of adversity from others—we lack it so dearly much, that when there is news of something unorthodox and curious, we race to absorb every bit of it in order to fill that empty part of ourselves. Because we truly believe, with how politics and society has ingrained it within our lifestyle and our intentions, that we do not have the ability to do the same. We, as ordinary citizens of any country and state, have no ability to say ‘no’ to routine, to say ‘no’ to the masterminds of society. For if we did, there would be undeniable consequences. And we must preserve our innocence—best not to risk anything, best to stay blended and under the radar, within safety of the billions of the ordinary.

This needs to change.

We need government to loosen its hold on society, on human nature. We need us to do that, as well—we must rekindle with our urgencies to reach out to our free spirit, to nature. We have forgotten how to live; sure, we know how to survive. We know how to pick food off the extensive, glimmering shelves in the big organization supermarkets, we know how to cause anxiety over which holiday gifts we will be receiving and which gifts we will be giving. We know how to stress over when the next episodes of the hottest television series will be released onto Netflix.

But that—that, is only surviving.

There is a whole other percentage of people that have experienced the other side of the spectrum.

Living.

Having to fend for yourself—with grace. Shield your own, quiet divinity from the impurity of lies and wrongdoings, by speaking out for those who need it, by being individualistic, respective, and honest. Choosing to forge true relationships through the common goal of elegant survival; learning from one another by crafting and expression, through the beauty of deep conversation. Learning to do the basics—cooking, sharing, attempting acts of selflessness and freedom, learning to slow down, to appreciate. Learning the common basis of civilization in order for us to unite and reflect on our whole, our holon—simple, tedious things, like how to keep a fire going, how to construct majestic pieces of dish-ware, and revive songs long forgotten. Learning the intricate, thrilling things, like how to weave, how to climb trees and cross swords. Learn how to serve ourselves, instead of waiting for someone else in the world to finish things for us.

Why not?

Unless, the toll is too high—the number of consequences too abundant. Why risk the innocence and the safety of our current society in order to forge an unpracticed, freer way of life? Won’t our entire globally economic structure unravel and fall into chaos? With pure freedom without cost or routine, won’t havoc rise out from the dust—and not liberation?

Perhaps, some would say.

That is definitely possible, some would agree.

But nothing ever improved on Earth without a bit of a risk factor involved. No war has ever been won without a few men or women jeopardizing their lives in the process. Every revolution has gone askew in some aspect or form, large or small. Risks are being taken every day: dams being constructed that have the odds of increasing the risk of flooding nearby towns, candidates running for president that have the most disturbing notions in mind—people who are expelling their poisonous beliefs out into the world, beliefs that could risk more damage to society than a try of human freedom could ever risk. Global Warming is an immense issue that practically seems to go unnoticed—like a virus slipping right beneath our thick skin, growing more fatal as time inches on, just waiting for the right moment to strike. A moment that, because of our innocent refusal to acknowledge the problem, because of our fear of the risks of the immense costs and funding that would go into curing this disease, would pass too quickly for us to finally act upon.

There are risks everywhere—some, blatant across the screens of our television sets each time the news channel flickers to life. Some, slinking beneath the shadows, just anticipating the chance to emerge. And there are some, that are not being taken at all in fear of the consequences it will bring.

As I said, nothing ever improved without a bit of risk involved. With living comes risks that can be frustrating, that seem unworthy at first, as opposed to the survival aspect of life we all know. With adversity comes a lengthy list of consequences—judgement and disparagement, addiction, and feelings of lack of confidence. But a dose of true adversity has the extraordinary ability to replenish a part of our modernized human nature, soothes the anxiety of our busy lives by helping us realize the greater, more meaningful lessons in conflict. We may also risk the reassuring interconnections and aid of society for the solitude and freedom, but depending on what you are attempting to accomplish—say, sailing around the globe—do the dangers and consequences really make up for the brief few months of adrenaline rushes and yearnings for home? Why act upon it in the first place if you understood the consequences, if you knew that you would be disobeying the law and society?

Here is why.

Because accepting the risks and letting go is an accomplishment in of itself, and abandoning materialism for the sake of a literal journey and adventure across the sea of self-discovery is a thousand times more rewarding than sucking up the second-hand tales from other ambitious freedom-chasers. Can we also risk a little bit of our own familiar, modern, confined way of life for a slice of survival? If we all work together to make that happen, will the freedom of solitude become a possibility of the future? Could we rekindle with our true adversity, our true human spirit?

And, by dimming our own fervent lights bit by bit…could we lure the stars back out at night?

 

nightsky