Freedom is an awkward thing. Just when you think you have it, it escapes you, and you are trapped. We all chase what we label as freedom, but if we think it through, it’s complicated and paradoxical.
For a start, freedom presupposes a separation between a person’s wishes, and the outside world. For example, if I say I am free to go for a walk, what I mean is that I am a person, separate from the place I might walk in, and so I choose to try to unite myself with that place. In this sense, freedom only makes sense if we feel separate from things in the first place.
In a similar way, freedom can presuppose oppression. I may feel myself to be part of a population whose life is restricted. And so I fight for freedom. Once I have achieved a relative position of power, others will feel disadvantaged, and seek to fight for their freedom. Life becomes a never-ending series of battles.
If we don’t see ourselves as separate from the outside world, and if we don’t see ourselves as oppressed, then we have no need to fight for freedom. In a sense, it ceases to have meaning.
There is another kind of freedom, though, which starts when we experience unity and liberation. With this kind of freedom, we don’t really seek it – we just work on ourselves until we are rid of the need to feel separate, and rid of the need to have power over others. Once we understand that separation and selfishness are just illusions, we are already free, without having to do anything further.
We can still fight for justice in the world. We can still help anyone we feel is being harmed or caused suffering. But we are free of our self-imposed chains.