We are all inherently biased. The old saying of “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” is quite true, and in the absence of special thought and effort we act according to that bias. Thus, when I contemplate this holiday that celebrates freedom in my country, my bias leads me to think more of internal freedom than external–freedom from fear, freedom from shame, freedom from active addiction.
Last year on the Fourth of July, I wrote Can We Ever Be Free? and speculated on the origins and implications of the word addiction. This year, after another year of recovery and a year of writing more than I have in the decades before, my thoughts are centering around what it’s like to have our creativity set free.
This, after all, is what working recovery truly promises–not happiness, not a smooth life, not money or approval, but only human life itself, leading to human death. Our life, our death, the life cycle of the person we are when not ruled by addiction and the qualities that feed it. And I believe that we are all creative.
We can’t help it. If we know ourselves–who we were, who we are, what we want, where we want to go–we can’t help creating some kind of response to that condition of knowing. A response to the feelings it generates. A response to whatever authentic pain we have. A response to our experience of the world around us when that experience is no longer dulled. A response to the mysterious energy we contain.
Freedom comes with a price, as all freedom does. In my country’s Declaration of Independence, the writer spoke of pledging “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” We do this too, when we bargain for freedom from our internal chains. We are ready to give up our lives–the lives we knew before, even the lives we think we want in the future. We bow to the unknown and stand ready to accept a life that might be quite different. We are ready to give up our fortunes–give up the idea that any external riches are worth not being ourselves. We pledge our sacred honor, an honor we may be just beginning to discover, and place some principles higher than our own desires.
In return we get truth, creativity, authenticity, and many other things that carry the potential for incredible joy and wholeness. But they are so, so hard to hold sometimes that we become consciously or subconsciously willing to lay this freedom down. When we discover truth, it usually wants something from us. (Like in my poem Alpha.)
My friends, I wish you freedom on this day–and I wish you a degree of progress toward it that you can hold. I wish you the grace to win just a little bit more, and the courage not to give it back, and faithful friends who share your journey.