freedom fighter

As most children do, I dreamed of being free…

Finally (a century later, it seemed), I got my freedom.  At the age of eighteen, I left home and over the years, moved here and there, to one city after another, in these United States.

I enjoyed a freedom of mobility not available to most humans in most ages.

But perhaps “enjoyed” isn’t the best word to describe my experience.  I was traveling on a shoestring…and that shoestring often got awfully thin…sometimes, so thin that it broke.

Some thought I was free as a bird.  But they didn’t consider the cost of my choices.  For that matter, neither did I—until afterwards.

That’s not to say I didn’t gain.  In fact, I’d say the gain was worth the cost, because I learned so much.  By trying to be free, I learned about freedom.  I learned about the shackles.

We’ve all seen this story: the hero bursts free from the shackles of his prison and emerges into the bright sunlight of freedom.

That’s the one we want to be.  The problem is: in order to be free, we must give up some degree of security.

I’m not saying security is evil.  Security is necessary for our survival.  The trick is: not to overvalue it—nor, for that matter, undervalue it.  We all deal with that dilemma, that question of balance.  And on a daily basis, as I see it—regarding issues large and small.

As for myself…

I’ve both overvalued and undervalued security…

I’ve made many high-flying leaps…some of which ended with me limping back to more secure confines…

I could fly the coop, but I had trouble remaining aloft…

…because the shackles were still hanging from my back.  Those shackles are made of fear.

So then, what do I do about that fear?  Well, you can’t simply talk yourself out of it.  It’s useless to say: “I shouldn’t be afraid—I won’t be afraid.”  I know because I’ve tried.  Many, many times…

At least now, I’m semi-aware of the fear.  Aware enough to be able to control it, instead of being controlled by it.  That’s true freedom.  But let’s be honest: I’m not there yet.  Not by a long shot.

It’s a helluva fight: to defy my fear is to defy a basic instinct.  An impulse necessary for my survival.

So here’s my ideal: to listen to that instinct—and then make a conscious decision.  Maybe I leap, maybe I hop, maybe I stop, maybe I step back…

…but as long as I’m making a conscious choice, I’m acting with freedom.

However, I realize the equation is often not so simple.  We have commitments and responsibilities to consider.  We may be limited by circumstances over which we have little or no control…

But here’s what else I’ve learned: “freedom” doesn’t mean being free from all restraints.  There will always be limitations.  Our freedom depends on our ability to expand within whatever limitations we face.

Maybe there’s no way out of prison for our hero.  Nevertheless, he finds ways to expand.  They can’t shackle his mind.  He expands by giving up the security of old habits of thought, of being.

As I see it, I’ve been struggling for freedom since birth: I’ve been trying to find ways to expand—to grow—within the limits of this life, this world.

But I think we all fight that fight—to some degree.  Don’t we all struggle against our environment—and ourselves—in an effort to be free?  In that sense, aren’t we’re all at least a little heroic?

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
Common Courage: a poetry book


About Michael Patton

I am a poet, novelist, and fabulist...A new mythologist, a peace miller, a dream worker...I don't qualify as an illustrator or photographer--I just "make pictures"...I have thirteen books available at amazon... I currently reside in northwest Arkansas, but have lived and worked all over the United States... I'm self-taught, for the most part--which is like searching for the right door in the dark. It's an on-going process.... I don't want to write MY story, I want OUR story, so that's what I'm studying: the human story: past, present, future, in its many aspects--including the spiritual. I'm proceeding at a slow crawl.... I don't see the inner world and outer world as separate. By learning about myself, I learn about others, I learn about my world.... Conversely, as I struggle to understand what I see OUT THERE, I learn about myself.... But to be clear: I don't claim any special understanding. I'm still purblind, still only half-awake.... After frustrating experience with the publisher of my first novel, I've published on my own, beginning with e-books, with plans to move into print and audio. Even video.... Along with a second novel, I've now published eight books of poetry. Each poetry book focuses on a theme. For instance, the collection GLORIOUS TEDIOUS TRANSFORMATION is about the slow difficult wonderful process of change.... In that book, as with all my work, I try to be accessible to a general audience, while also striving to achieve a certain literary quality.
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