Thursday, February 20, 2014

Living Free In An Unfree World

This morning I'm writing from Gainesville, Florida, home of the Gators of the University of Florida as well as some good friends, Lou and Jonellen Heckler and Ray Perez. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending some quality time with the Hecklers and Ray. So, between the wonderful day of sunshine, light breeze and moderate temperature and the wonderful people and conversation, I can best describe the day as EXCELLENT!

But, I have to be really honest, even on rainy and colder days; I seldom have days that aren't excellent anymore. Is this because my life and days are extremely blessed? Of course they are. But, it's not because I am financially wealthy or have exceptional friends or live exceptionally. It's because I have CHOSEN to live free. I choose to find good in each day. I choose to find good in people whether they are wealthy or poor. I choose for each day to be EXCELLENT. And best of all, I have the Freedom of Choice through my personal philosophy of Living Free to make each day Excellent.

The late Harry Browne wrote a book in 1973 titled How to Live Free in an Unfree World: A Handbook for Personal Liberty. 1973 was the year I was discharged from my four years of involuntary indentured servitude to the government of the United States. That's a wordy way of saying I chose to enlist in the U.S. Air Force for four years of military service at ridiculously low wages instead of being drafted into the U.S. Army for two years and potentially ending up in rice paddies or tunnel diving in Vietnam in a war I never supported. Now, while I made that all sound very dark and sinister, the fact is, that I chose "voluntarily" enlisting in the Air Force because I had already secured a job in Washington, DC producing radio programs and phonograph records for the Secretary of the Air Force. So, quite honestly, while I didn't get paid very much, I served the mission of the U.S. Air Force while honing my skills and experience in the recording industry and advancing my own professional career. In other words, I CHOSE to make the best of a situation that, under normal circumstance, most people would have little control.

I didn't learn about Harry Browne's book until about 2011, five years after Mr. Browne's death. His book opened my mind to many ideas and insights that I hadn't examined before regarding living free, freedom and liberty. However, Mr. Browne, as a Libertarian, politically, did focus a fair amount around the political aspects of freedom and liberty. I prefer not to be labeled as anything, especially in a political context. True, when I take the little quizzes on the Internet to determine my political predisposition (Conservative, Liberal, Statist, Libertarian, etc.) I virtually always qualify as a mainstream Libertarian. However, that doesn't always represent my actual feelings about many issues. In reality, there hasn't been any candidate in decades for any office in government that truly represents me. So, in reality, elections are really a moot point for me.

While much of what Harry Browne discusses and expounds on in his book is very relevant to my personal philosophy of Living Free, much of it is somewhat irrelevant. It's taken me a lifetime to reach the understanding I have of what Living Free means to me. Unfortunately, this seems to be more the rule than the exception. Young people believe they know what freedom is all about. Actually, they think they know everything. When I was 17, I sure believed I knew everything. All you had to do was ask me something or, better yet, try to tell me something and I'd tell you, "I know!" "I know!" "I know!" Ah, the brash blindness and exuberance of youth. Actually, that blind exuberance is a very good thing because I took on "dragons" I didn't know I couldn't defeat - and DEFEATED THEM. I contend that our society wouldn't have progressed much further than the caves we once lived in if it hadn't been for brash, blind youthful exuberance.

Discovering Our Own Reality

The reality is most of us know very little about freedom and some, dare I say most, never discover what true personal freedom means during an entire lifetime. Why is that? Simple! Because from the time we're infants we're indoctrinated into a system and lifestyle by people who are not living free, but conforming to the system they were indoctrinated into. They were ultimately beaten into submission and their youthful exuberance resolved to conformity of the masses. Essentially, this is the story and history of humans and civilization and socialization. It's how we learn, whether born in the United States in some nice suburban community, an urban inner city or a rural farm or forest or an oppressive county under dictatorial rule or a tribal society under a chief, king or warlord. We learn from those who came before us and we're expected to conform to the values and ideologies of the culture and society we are born into. And, most people, the vast majority, comply and conform, thus, perpetuating the society.

But, alas, along comes the occasional non-conformist. Non-conformists come in all shapes, colors, sizes and both genders. They are the iconoclasts. They believe that there is more to life than what the indoctrination prescribes. Some of these people truly embrace greater degrees of living free; we often attach labels to them like hippies, bums, shiftless, homeless and others. Others become entrepreneurs and instead of finding and working at a job of some kind for someone else, they create their own jobs and with it, very often, an altered lifestyle. Still others exploit their genetically acquired talents to express themselves in various forms of art, music and invention. They are often described as starving artists, starving musicians and starving inventors because accumulating vast sums of money, secure, traditional housing, clothing and food and acquiring a collection of material stuff does not motivate them. Their love of what they choose to do with their given talent and love of it sustains them.

So, as an old saying goes, I suppose from some TV show (modern culture), "different strokes for different folks." During an earlier phase of my "Living Free" philosophical development, I often condemned anyone who couldn't understand and grasp my concept of living free. My thought was that these folks are "trapped" in this world of debt, stuff and running in a rut day in and day out. But, I've since some to understand and appreciate that this is simply how it all works. Some people are happy with the life they have though it may allow for little personal freedom. Others may believe that they are ultimately buying their freedom when they retire at some arbitrarily established time during their life timeline, if they are fortunate enough to live long enough and retain their health and physical abilities. Still others just accept that this is their lot in life. "The Man" controls everything and they are just the pawns or worker bees and do his/her bidding and accept whatever lifestyle that may allow.

And, of course, there are those who are the down trodden who believe they have been dumped on and live off the sweat of others. And this group breaks down further into three groups in my mind. First, there are those who want to work their way up the system and become productive members of society and live off the sweat of others only until they can pull themselves up the ladder. Next are those who simply except poverty as their lot in life and live off the sweat of others and don't care to improve their situation. And, finally, there are those who "play the system." The Players are those who could be productive members of society, gain respect and even position and join those who make up the larger part of our society. Instead, they choose to play the system and use their skills and cunning to live off the fat of the productive members of society. In essence, they are the "conmen" (and women) of the welfare system.

The Common Denominator

The common denominator is simply that we all live in an "Unfree World." No matter what country, state, province, county, city, town, village or neighborhood we happen to reside in there is always someone or some small group of people who desire to make everything better for everyone else by determining how everyone should live. Don't ask me why, but I could never buy into that idea. No one knows how I want to live, let alone determine how I should live. They don't know me. They don't know my personal make-up, what makes me tick, what brings me joy or how I should live my life. So, yes, I am one of those non-conformists. I'm not an extreme non-conformist, but I don't buy into someone telling me they know what's best for me.

Living Free in an Unfree World requires the exercise of our freedom of choice. We can choose to live in a traditional home . . . or not. We can decide to live in a particular city, town, village or county . . . or not. We can have a fixed location where we can always be found or we can be mobile and change our neighbors and scenery at will, by choice. We can eat store bought, genetically modified food and steroid/antibiotic filled meat or we can eat vegetarian, vegan or organically. We can earn our income in a traditional job working for "The Man" and have our life and lifestyle controlled by "The Man's" determination of our monetary value to him or her and control what we'll do and how many hours on what days we'll serve his/her requirements or we can exploit our own talents, abilities, experience and skills and determine our own worth and what hours and how many we'll work doing what.

This is all part of the idea of Living Free in an Unfree World. The biggest and most powerful tool we have for living free is our freedom of choice. Give that up and you're not free and you're conforming to the Unfree World. Exercise that freedom of choice and be the captain of your own life and you can live free in the Unfree World.

I'm going to explore this topic more in the future. But, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Leave a comment or drop me a note by email and let me know where you stand.  


SwankieWheels said...

On of my favorite books.... How to Live Free in an Unfree World... found it years ago and it helped set the course for the new life I live today. I will kayak my 50th state on my 70th birthday in May - Good blog post.

Ed Helvey - Professional Nomad said...

Yep! I think ole Harry got it, Charlene, I don't by into 100% of his ideas, but then again, I don't buy 100% into anyone's ideas. That's part of what makes us each unique. But, following most of what's in that book will take anyone a long way toward living a much freer life than they ever imagined.

Congratulations on achieving your goal. That's a pretty impressive accomplishment. I'ts not one of mine, but I commend you and anyone who sets out with a lofty goal and pursues it. So much the better if it is achieved, but what really is important is the journey. You have me by about 10 months in the age department. So, what's your next goal after May 16th?


debra creighton said...

Reminds me of "Atlas Shrugged," great ideas but devoid of heart. Perhaps you have read Milton Freedman's "Free to Choose." This book, suggested by my college Econ prof (because of my ideas that opposed her socialist beliefs) helped me define and support my own beliefs. As a Bible believer, I have to agree that there is no value in doing anything that you do not want to do, unless you are doing it to obey God. Have you watched videos at Econ Stories? Freedom to me is in the mind, having little to do with any current circumstances. I have freely decided to work today for the life I want to live in the future. So happy to see you enjoying freedom from bad weather while in sunny Florida.

Ed Helvey - Professional Nomad said...

You make very interesting points, Debra. Freedom, in my thinking, is an individual thing. What makes one person feel free doesn't necessarily fulfill someone else's definition. That is why it's freedom. And happiness, in my thinking, is a choice and a state of mind. One's spiritual beliefs are important, but again, that's also a personal choice and commitment.

"Atlas Shrugged" may be devoid of heart, but that was the world that Ayn Rand projected in her future based on what she was experiencing in her present world. Remember, she was an immigrant, a Russian Jew who was in Russia during the years of the Russian Revolution and came to this country with a different set of values and experiences.

My philosophy is not devoid of heart, but it is as I see our world and society based on my life experience. I am, I'm sure, quite a bit older than you are, so my world view is based on realizing that my time on this planet is getting much closer to running out, so if there are things I want to experience, I really need to "do it now" because the luxury of planning time has long since passed. As John Lennon said, Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans. So, I'm not spending too much time these days making anymore plans - I'm living as free as I can in the now and since no society is truly free, I'm simply living as free as I can in the system I'm in.

Thanks, again, for your thoughts. I hope they challenge other people, too.