Vestiges: Freedom

We are all a product of our planet. It is not without harm to ourselves that we can bring harm to the forces, ecosystems, and organisms that brought us to be. It is only through coalescence and our collective knowledge and capabilities that we can achieve fulfillment, and continue our legacy as the adaptive, intelligent being of humankind.

“In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us.” – Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot Speech

“”It is wrong to live under constraint; but no man is constrained to live under constraint.” Of course not. On all sides lie short and simple paths to freedom…” – Marcus Aurelius

Freedom was written as many of my songs are. Piece by piece, strung together with intent over the course of a few weeks musically, and devised lyrically through a culmination of thought over an extended period of time. It’s hard to say exactly when it started or when it will end. One of the first ideas was an unassuming one, however. Scribbled down in a moment of euphoria; one of acknowledgement.

I am a son of the forest,
I am a daughter to the sea,
I am a cousin to the wind,
And no stranger to running free.

As is often the case, I will be inspired musically but not lyrically. For this song, I had many ideas floating around in my head, but no base from which to start. Over the years I have compiled a sizeable backlog of thoughts, phrases, poetry, and prose in the notes on my phone. So, to get me into the groove, I dug up this gem. Pre-dating the songs by many months (probably even a year or more) it fit well with the new ideas with which I was becoming familiar.

At the beginning of my university education I had attended a few yoga classes with a new friend. I still speak passionately about my newfound appreciation for the power of a single breath that I found those days. The basis of life, yet so unconscious. Part of the autonomic nervous system — involuntary and essential, untaught but learned. I remember feeling like I had moved to another plain of existence after the first class. Everything was so clear and timeless. Our automatic push and pull for subsistence could be intentional and filled with appreciation and understanding. Every second of our life can be filled with eternity. What a revelation!

My practice weakened and strengthened in cycles as I went on, but the seed had been planted. Whenever stress or circumstance got the best of me, I could always return to this principle. Breathing in – I am a part of the entire universe, breathing out – the entire universe is a part of me. I started to see things differently. I was a part of nature, not above it. On this journey through a new sort of consciousness I encountered a number of ideologies including buddhism. More ideas and world-views were introduced through books and lectures of people like Alan Watts. I downloaded dozens of hours of lectures covering topics from the nature of humankind to eastern philosophy. The shading of these bigger pictures I was encountering began to be filled and my curiosity expanded.

The culminating point for the lyrical content began half a year before the song was written, when I first watched a film called Planetary. I do highly recommend this commentary on the world and our nature. It is presented through alternating interviews of astronauts, explorers, sociologists, zen monks, tribe leaders, and more, while interlaced with stunning visuals of our planet. It asks and discusses arguably the most important questions concerning the world today (though don’t ask the current US President or Albertan Premier, who seem to be convinced that climate change and the global ecological crisis aren’t big problems). I borrowed and drew inspiration from a number of the speakers throughout. One phrase that really stuck with me was “We are not on the earth, we are of the earth”. When did we convince ourselves that we are so important? I realised that a large part of our problem originated with how we frame our world and how it contrasts with the way we frame our effects on the greater dimensions of our worldly sphere.

Take, for example, our supply of fresh water. Whether or not we like it, there are certain things that we currently can’t filter from water effectively on a large scale (caffeine and hormones being two notable examples – and actually we pump so much estrogen into our waste water that it is turning huge numbers of biologically male Sturgeon to females). Our everyday, seemingly innocent actions have tangible, far-reaching consequences, and return to us in varying ways. Each move has an effect, no matter how small it seems. The way through which we tell ourselves about the world can be deeply flawed, often without our knowing. The narratives that control our trajectories and dispositions have been shaped, and not necessarily by the hands of logic and evidence.

The stories to which we subscribe to mould our lives are incredibly important. Without them there would be a lot of misdirection and confusion. We needed large, overarching, directed, stories to get us to this point in an expanding global existence, and still do. The problem is that our global consciousness and conscience has not yet caught up to our global economy (though it is beginning to, and has with some – check out this short bit by Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens). The rejection of these narratives is not the answer, however (the results of said rejection are those who believe that the earth is flat, or that “chem trails” exist, for example). What we need to do is let go. In letting go, we are not denying or confirming, but acknowledging without clinging to. It is a stepping-back from the situation without completely removing oneself. It is an attempt to see clearly by limiting attachment. It is a conscious action of affirmation toward the existence of something without necessarily confirming it. Put eloquently by Alan Watts…

“If you breathe in and hold it, you lose your breath. But if you breathe out it comes back to you. So the principle here is: if you want life, don’t cling to it; let go.”

We can be aware of the way that things affect our lives without lashing out against them, or starting a violent revolution to change them. Change comes from within. Change comes slowly. Change comes from opening the eyes of others. Change comes from letting go. Change comes from liberating others; it comes from wishing freedom upon others and actively pursuing that equality.

As Thomas R. Flynn said in a summary of a lecture of Humanism by Jean-Paul Sartre…

“If we are to pursue freedom in the concrete rather than merely dream of it in the abstract, we must address the alienated situation of others. We cannot be free until they too have been liberated.”

I leave you with the chorus of my song “Freedom” and would love if you’d listen and watch the video. Until next time…

Let go of all the narratives
Let go of all the formalities
Only then, you will know freedom

-Max

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