LIBERTY, INDEPENDENCE AND FREEDOM
originally published in Foursquare Conversations Newsletter
written by Lynn Jericho and Bethene LeMahieu
July, 2004

 

Note: I really love the ideas Bethene and I discovered in our conversations on Liberty, Independence and Freedom over four years ago. I hope you find them worth living and celebrating. Our conversation was inspired by the election year of 2004, now we are at another election year, 2008. Make sure you vote in November. Lynn

Each Fourth of July Macy’s spends millions of dollars providing a spectacular fireworks display for New York City and television viewers around the country. For thirty minutes the rocket’s red glare explodes over Manhattan from three locations. From our vantage on the Hudson River waterfront of Jersey City, we could watch all three displays though our necks got a little sore from all the twisting. Jersey City is home to many different ethnic groups so our 4th was spent oohing and aahing in a true “melting pot” corner of America.

Independence Day brings many images to us: cookouts, fireworks, John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” blueberries and whipped cream, It is, after all, the birthday of American Independence‚Ķand we sure know how to throw a party.

As you have learned by now, we love to plow beneath the surface and find the deeper meaning of things. The Fourth of July inspired us to look at LIBERTY, INDEPENDENCE and FREEDOM. Before you read our thoughts on these ideals, consider for a few moments your own sense of their meanings.

Please keep in mind and heart that we are facing a very significant election – one that will determine how we define and experience liberty, independence and freedom in our daily lives and in our future.

Independently yours,
Lynn and Bethene

Growing up in the “land of the free” means we spend little time reflecting on what we feel we have as a birthright. Like breathing, freedom and its two siblings, liberty and independence, never call out for attention until they are being stifled. Many of us are feeling a little shortness of breath these days – so take a moment to bring some special attention to the three sisters of true emancipated individuality.

If you followed our request and gave thought to the meaning of liberty, independence and freedom, you probably realized, as we did, that there is a tendency to collapse them all together and to turn them into synonyms. Liberty is independence. Independence is freedom. Freedom is liberty.

The notion that liberty, independence and freedom are synonymous did not feel right to us. So we began one of our extraordinary conversations to discover the distinctions we knew were essential but not articulated. Here are our results:

Liberty is – the absence of confining rules, boundaries, disciplines.
Independence is – the absence of attachments.
Freedom is – the presence of unconditional love.

 

LIBERTY
the absence of confining rules, boundaries and disciplines

Our two inspirations leading us to our sense of the essence of liberty were the sailors at liberty and those individuals we call libertines. Sailors are given liberty – they are granted permission to leave the confines of their ship and cross the boundaries of the sea to engage in land life. They are allowed to relax their disciplines and duties. Libertines are those who live by breaking all rules – but not with a criminal intent. They don’t recognize the boundaries of social and cultural mores. They live outside the norm in amazingly unrestricted self-expression. How they feel, how they act and how they think is unpredictable – and outside the box.

Liberty is experienced in your relationship to all that is outside of you-beyond your personal boundary. It is about the context of your life – your family, your workplace, your social group, etc.

INDEPENDENCE
the absence of attachments

“In-” is a suffix that indicates “not.” Not dependent is one way of understanding independence. Dependencies are perceived as lifelines to secure survival or to secure identity. Dependencies are essential for childhood, but in adulthood, they indicate fear and uncertainty in our own experience of selfhood. With growing independence, we cut our numerous lifelines and umbilical cords and increasingly feel a secure sense of our own well-being and our own individuality.

“In-dependence is the confident dependence on your own inner content. You have the inner resources and capabilities to provide for yourself.

FREEDOM
the permeating presence of unconditional love

The dictionary of etymology – the origin of words – gives the Old English and Old German roots for freedom as meaning love, dear and friend. We began to consider the role of love in what we call freedom.

Without the presence of love, real universal love, not a selfish and limited love that is confined, bounded and ruled by your attachments, there can be no freedom. Instead of freedom we will only have the privileged and the unprivileged, the entitled and the un-entitled, the haves and the have-nots. If we divide the world into those we love and those we don’t love, we will never have freedom, liberty or independence. This division of those we love from those we don’t love forces us to:
abandon universal love for personal love (no freedom)
set rules and boundaries and enforce them on ourselves and others (no liberty)
maintain our attachments to what we love (no independence).
Freedom is loving and being loved by all others. Love becomes both the context (liberty) and the content (independence) of your life.

A LONG WAY TO GO

Clearly, we have a long way to go to move the visions and values of liberty, independence and freedom into real fulfillment. And – all of us should contemplate and confront our assumptions and behaviors relative to our personal liberty, independence and freedom.

When you begin your contemplation, work in nano steps. (A nano step is about a billionth of a baby step.) Keep the circle of contemplation small as you take up your thoughts. The meaning of these ideals can easily fall into noble, but grandiose, abstractions. Grandiose abstractions never get practical and never make a better world. Keep your thoughts to what actually can be understood, felt in your heart and achieved. You’ll find a better you – and a better world for everyone – by working in nano-steps.

 

SUGGESTED CONTEMPLATIONS AND EXERCISES

What rules do you adhere to?

FAMILY RULES: Behave yourself. You represent us. When the going gets tough, go crazy. Say grace before every meal,
SELF-IMAGE RULES: I must be thin.
WORK RULES: Keep your emotions at home. Always give credit to the boss. Never have a spelling error on a proposal.
SOCIAL RULES: Be polite but not friendly with those who are different. Ignore people in wheelchairs. Always write thank you notes by hand.
POLITICAL RULES: My parents voted Democrat, so do I. Always vote in an election.

Consider your boundaries and disciplines:
What are the ships you cannot get off?

Rate the most important five rules of your life.
On a scale of 1 – 10 – 10 being the most free – rate each rule. How comfortable are you with each rule? What would be the consequence of liberty with each rule? You can consider boundaries or disciplines as well.

List five or more attachments you have.
It helps to consider them as addictions – without them you can’t imagine living or being yourself: Ice cream, the daily newspaper, makeup, tennis, credit cards. Having friends and colleagues that look and think like you. Living in the right neighborhood.

Imagine being unattached.
How much larger would your world be? How much larger would you be?

Think of the individuals or groups that give you the freedom to be you. This is the presence of love.

List a minimum of ten groups of people, ways of thinking, belief systems, lifestyles, etc. you love less than others or love more than others.
You can use a scale of 1 – 10 here too. Be truthful with yourself; nobody is going to know what you discern.

Finally, be creative.
Free your thinking.
Feel independently.
Liberate your actions.