I started reading this book called, “How I Became Free in an Unfree World” by Harry Browne. I’m about a third of the way into it and appreciate some points he makes about the direct and indirect paths to freedom, which is the basic premise of the book.
An indirect path to freedom is all about you baby. In order for you to get what you want requires only your action. It does not require the approval, permission, or buy-in of another person in order to get what you want. As oppose to the indirect path to freedom i.e. a direct path to bondage, by forcing, pleading, or deceiving others to get what you want. The author suggests, the direct path to freedom is much simpler and more doable. To quote a famous adage, “Its easier to wear to slippers than to carpet the world.”
I appreciate Harry’s writing-style and forward-thinking, considering the book was written in 1973 with only two minor revisions in the mid-90’s and 2004. Harry passed away in 2006 at his home in Franklin, TN. I read his bio on Wikipedia and it seems he was an investment analyst, author of 12 books, and politician. Huh? What? Politician? After reading his chapter on government and how he recommends it to be completely dissolved, that’s kind of out in left-field for me. Granted, I don’t know everything there is to know about the man, but isn’t it a bit hypocritical to state the uselessness of the government and then ask for his vote to make a useless entity useful? Its like polishing a turd and saying, “But this turd is different.”
So what is personal freedom to you? Owning your time? Making as much money as you want? Traveling the world without restrictions? Being married to several partners at once? Having your own thoughts and opinions about life and living those thoughts and opinions out with the least amount of resistance? Calling a cop an, “Asshole!” just because you feel like it, with no jail time?
I spend a lot of my time reading about personal freedom, free-enterprise, capitalism, libertarian views, and the like. I attempt to see any subject from as many angles as I can whether its religion, science, health, wealth, or what have you. This allows me to make a moderate and balanced choice with minimal downside and maximum upside. I also look at the fruits of the people whom are sharing their findings and look for key patterns in their thoughts, emotions, and activities. As Anthony Robbins has cliched, “Success leaves clues.” With the corollary to that being, “Failure leaves clues too.” Everyone can be a teacher of what to do and what not to do in any area of your life.
I look at personal freedom and think to myself, “How cool is it to own one’s time, resources, energies, and money? To be the master of my fate, captain of my soul!” But is this really the case? After all, we are the, UNITED States of America, all intimately connected to one another through our thoughts, beliefs, feelings, actions, and interests. No man is an island.
As children we are dependent. As teenagers we attempt to be independent. As adults we become either co-dependent in our relationships, dependent on the State, independent from others, or interdependent by helping ourselves and others. At the highest level we are One, seeing ourselves as the finger of the hand, the hand of the arm, the arm of the body. If the finger gets ripped from the hand, the entire body suffers. Likewise, what the so-called independent or free-man does, has a ripple effect big or small on all others to the expense or gain of his personal freedom.
Until recently, I thought I was an independent-thinker and action-taker completely separate from my upbringing in Massachusetts. I was having a conversation with my girlfriend a few months back and she said, “Man, I really get you east coast boys. You and Josh are so much a like, it’s scary.” Her ex-husband grew up in the same area of Massachusetts as my family did. The more she shared about his tastes, likes and dislikes, and personality nuances, I thought, “Wow, he really IS like me.” When I eventually met her ex-husband I felt an intimate understanding of him. I realized, we were both products of the region we were born into. Growing up in New England shaped our beliefs, thoughts, emotions (or lack thereof), and activities that we either enjoyed or disdained.
I started doing some quasi-research.
I asked friends and family members from New England, and especially Massachusetts, about their tastes, likes and dislikes, and belief systems about how the world works. During our talks, it was as though they were holding a mirror. My ego didn’t feel so special anymore. I thought I was an independent-thinker and doer, with my own thoughts, feelings, and actions. And here I was simply living out and defending programs that were downloaded onto my fleshy hard-drive as a small boy and re-enforced as I became an adult.
Knowing this, how do you know the thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and actions you are currently taking are evolutionary for you? Are these actions the right actions or are they programs you’re simply living out on autopilot?
Here’s a societal program we as Americans have bought into, “Go to school, get good grades, get a good job, get married, have kids, work for 40 years, take a vacation once a year, retire, travel a little, then die.” That social narrative is only 70 years old. What was it before then? What will it be in 70 years from now? Remember how ‘Success and failure leaves clues’ right? How many people do you know; friends, family members, co-workers, and the like who bought into this social narrative are miserable? Maybe its time to reboot the hard-drive.
What does personal freedom look like to you? Beware of the answers that you might give. Are they coming from a place of awareness, introspection, and humility? Or is your personal freedom defined by marketers, family, or cultural programs based on fear, lack, control, and negative pride?
The greatest power you have is the power to choose your own thoughts. The challenge with that is being able to find out which thoughts are yours and which thoughts are from others.
My suggestion is to find the universal principles of right-living that have worked for thousands of years for millions of people and surrender to them. They work regardless of culture, geography, status, beliefs, or otherwise. Just as planting corn gets you corn and not tomatoes, planting these seeds will reap the harvest of a great life.
A jumpstart to right-living would be surrendering to the virtues. The virtues of loving kindness and non-injury, moderation and non-excessiveness, generosity and non-stealing, constancy of aim and effort and non-laziness, and accurate perception and correct expression and non-falsehood. The benefits of practicing these virtues daily are timeless, forever practical, and contain the essence of living a great life. Daily practice will develop your ability to experience inner and outer personal freedom. These ‘clues’ offer a direct path to personal freedom that require only your actions and no one else.
I believe Victor Frankl, neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust Survivor, had it right on the money when he said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
You have the power to choose your own way. You are the master of your fate and captain of your soul. Do not leave the steering of that ship to the the intentions of others.