September 17th, 2008

The one time I ever really impressed a teacher was when my Junior year english teacher asked our class what freedom meant. My answer was the first thing that came to mind, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” It’s a line from Janis Joplin’s song “Me and Bobby McGee.” Turns out, that’s exactly what he was thinking too.

There are very few people in America who really know what freedom means. Is it what Joplin sang? Perhaps. If movies, literature, and song have said many times, is that the people who really have the power to do whatever they want are those who have either escaped responsibility or have had it taken away. And yet, with a good job, a decent education, and hard work, we can try to get every material thing we want or any comfort money can buy.

But ask yourself: “What would I do if I had no job, no home, no possessions, no obligations, nothing but the clothes I’m wearing?” If you were in that situation, it’d probably take some thought. One thing would be true, though: you could do anything you want. Couldn’t start a family because you didn’t have any time outside of work? Haven’t done much traveling because you had chores to do and other things to save up for? Well you’ve got a lot of time to do some real living, here’s your chance!

I won’t be the first to point out that The Declaration of Independence – the document that created the United States of America, says that we have a right to “the pursuit of happiness.” It’s a funny phrase, if you think about it: if happiness is what we all want anyway, shouldn’t it be that we have a right to happiness? Trouble is, happiness – that feeling of being able to walk down the street and spontaneously break out into a grin if for no reason than the feeling of being alive – happiness is not something we all get to have. It’s something that requires an effort. Being happy doesn’t just come from nowhere, we must work for it. We must pursue it.  And somewhere, somehow, in the middle of chasing that happiness, occasionally that feeling just appears. Chances are you won’t notice it – but sometimes there is a realization that everything is all right. You may notice a grin on your face, or a sudden urge to dance. That’s happiness, the elusive goal.

The pursuit of happiness, that is the real freedom. All of those things in your life that you could lose, it may hurt for a while, but they can all be lost. That already makes you free. That’s the kind of thought that makes me smile.

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