There’s one topic that can easily lead people away from happiness and joy and meaningfulness, and it’s definitely done so for me, is this word “freedom”.
One of the most celebrated words in our culture, a word that sometimes seems to be used as something pretty close to happiness.
Somehow, this idea of being free is just somehow assumed that you have this power to be happy.
I always imagined that if I had basic living needs taken care of and had freedom, these are the ingredients for having a full life.
And of course, there’s all the other details that can be added to that, but it’s so much the foundation.
I still believe these things are very important, but I realized that I put too much emphasis on it, too much emphasis on freedom.
And in fact, maybe I’m still even doing it now, because I live a very individual life, maybe too much, maybe too isolated from other people, maybe too much about my own freedom.
It is easy to blow freedom out of proportion and take it too far.
Now, I’m not saying I want to give up any of my freedom, but simply I’m thinking that I have exaggerated really its importance a bit too much in my own life.
It seems to me like freedom is not something that we can really get hold of.
It’s not something with substance of its own.
Freedom is like a container.
It’s a potential it can be filled with things.
It gives the possibility of doing so many different things in life.
But simply having this open container in which we can put anything in, it doesn’t give us any guidance as to what we should put in.
What should we fill our lives with? I always imagined that, simply as individuals, that we go with what we feel and what we learn and what we judge to be best, and then we fill our lives accordingly.
But I think I’m only recently beginning to appreciate how much having great freedom brings such great responsibility on ourselves.
We have to decide what we will fill our lives with.
We have to decide what we’ll do.
And I love having that power, that freedom, to be able to make those decisions.
But having that power does not help me in any way to actually make those decisions.
I’m still influenced by everything around me.
And especially when I was younger and even more impressionable, with less experience, it’s so easy to be influenced one way or another, and to just choose to fill our lives with things that later you can decide “Maybe I shouldn’t have filled my life with those things.” I think a clear example of how we interpret this is this whole idea of “free time”.
It’s like you go to work: that’s when you pay your dues and do what you need to do to make a living, so you get enough money, so that you can live and have free time.
This free time is somehow connected to the idea of happiness and a fulfilling life.
But now I see that free time is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Just having free time: there’s an emptiness to it if it’s just filled with entertainment.
So the combination of a working day that feels empty and then a free time of entertainment filled with empty fillers seems like a recipe for a lot of nothing.
And instead, it seems like the really valuable thing is for the work itself that we do to be meaningful.
To fill our lives with something meaningful through most of our day.
To make our day built around something meaningful, rather than somehow something that is saved up for free time.
And so it seems to me like the answer for this empty freedom, and one that I wish I had realized many years ago, is the importance of diving into a project.
Dedicating our free time to something more than simply celebrating our freedom and being entertained and amused.
Using this great power of freedom that we have to work on something that we consider to be meaningful.
Now, I think for so many of us that project begins by simply getting ourselves in order.
I had to spend a few years just getting myself in order before I could really dedicate myself to an external project beyond simply taking control of my own life.
So I believe that this project of self-development is itself a meaningful project.
Making ourselves better, even if it doesn’t manifest right away or anytime in the near future in any kind of external benefit, it is laying the foundations to be able to do something powerful with our lives.
By immersing ourselves in a project, we can take this empty container of the freedom that we have to do whatever we want in our lives, whatever we can imagine, and fill it with something real.
And that way, our potential of freedom can truly be fulfilled.
So, what are you doing with your free time, or what would you like to make use of your free time with? Do you feel that sense of freedom that you could do anything? And if so, what might you do with this great power we have?
#emptiness #boredom #meaningless