The first day of classes was a whirl. In addition to randomly going to a class that I wasn’t signed up for (just because it sounded interesting and my friend wanted me to go), I got a roommate! Very last minute, leading to several panic attacks and unfortunate mood swings, but all was well by the end of the second day of classes. I really hoped to write this post during the first day, as the thoughts I have recorded here were conceived during those classes, but because of this hectic life I lead, I didn’t get to them until now.
Nevertheless, we continue.
The American Lit class I was enrolled in (I had to drop it for my sanity) was based on a topic widely contested in writing: Freedom. We were going to be reading 6 major works that were all written during the 1850s. They all represented some view on freedom, (as this was the time before the Civil War, where slavery was a really hot topic…). This professor asked us to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how free we felt. The question totally stumped me. I don’t think about how free I am on a normal basis…but I think we should. 150 years ago, 89% of African Americans were slaves. These people didn’t have freedoms of any kind. They were subservient to their masters, an idea that we Americans cannot comprehend justly.
Our country was founded on the idea of being free to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Our constitution specifically states that idea. It is illegal to make someone else not have those freedoms, yet that is what we did. (Sorry for the ranting, but I mean..how can you not on this topic?)
From a global perspective, we are a country with the most freedom (and even then we wish we had more!) People in Middle Eastern countries can get killed for practicing a certain religion. Even though discriminating based on the caste system in India has been abolished, people still act a certain way depending on their family history (Intercaste marriage is not as prevalent as it could be, I mean, it is legal now, so why isn’t everyone doing it?) Even if we are politically allowed to be free, we don’t always feel free socially. For example, I could dress in see through shirts and pants if I wanted to…but the culture norms keep us from feeling completely free . Let it be noted that I will never wear that.
So, when it came down to it, I rated my freedom as a 6. Family expectations, social norms, and personal morals may keep us from feeling completely free. In my own opinion, I think that’s a good thing. (Just read Lord of the Flies, and you get the picture.)
But being free doesn’t have to depend upon what you have to or cannot do. It’s a state of mind. I feel free when I’m confident; when I have the assurance to make decisions in a powerful way, I feel free. But that’s not to say that a person in jail can’t feel free. There are thousands of ways to approach this question. I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong answer. But freedom, like wisdom, is a powerful and dangerous tool.
In the class that I wasn’t signed up for, the issue of freedom came up again. The professor talked about his travels- when he first graduated high school, he just wanted to travel. “I felt this amazing sense of freedom that is only apparent when you’re that young.” The age between 18 and 26 years old is the most propelling age to be. We are supposed to have the world at our fingertips, ready to dive in and experience it all. We’re supposed to travel, to see things we’ve never seen before, meet people we would never have met, and it’s all because we are young and not tied down to a job or a family. This freedom is only relevant in American and European cultures, though. If you think about it, other cultures, namely the Eastern Hemisphere’s cultures, don’t get to experience this. Because their way of life is so different from ours, we have a hard time understanding why they don’t get to do this.
So all of this just got me thinking…is it better to be free? I don’t know the answer to this. People could debate this topic all day, and I would love to just to get some sort of answer loosely nailed down. These questions and ideas have been stuck on my mind the past two days, so let me ask you:
How free do you feel?
And is this freedom a good thing?
(Maybe it’s the teacher in me coming out, but I would just love to discuss this subject with anyone. I never knew I would be interested in this, but I’m really geeking out over this! Write me an email, comment on this, send me a carrier pigeon, whatever! Let’s talk about this!)