Friday, September 08, 2006

Real Freedom

Lester Burnham (played by Kevin Spacey):
Janie, today I quit my job. And then I told my boss to go fuck himself, and then I blackmailed him for almost sixty thousand dollars. Pass the asparagus.

Carolyn Burnham (played by Annette Bening):
Your father seems to think this type of behavior is something to be proud of.

Lester Burnham:
And your mother seems to prefer I go through life like a fucking prisoner while she keeps my dick in a mason jar under the sink.

Carolyn Burnham:
How dare you speak to me that way in front of her. And I marvel that you can be so contemptuous of me, on the same day that you LOSE your job.

Lester Burnham:
Lose it? I didn't lose it. It's not like, "Whoops! Where'd my job go?" I QUIT. Someone pass me the asparagus.

--family dinner scene from American Beauty, directed by Sam Mendes
We have fears because we have attachments. We are attached to our bodies; so we fear growing old, we fear its annihilation--death.

If you are someone who take enormous pride in your physical beauty, chances are, your attachment is even stronger. And the stronger your attachment, the bigger your fears are, and the more potential pain that you have to suffer.

When you have no attachment to your job anymore and you decide to resign, you'll feel a great sense of freedom and liberation. To hell with your bosses! You are free. You don't give a damn anymore. Imagine yourself in that position. Capture that feeling. Why can't this be your permanent state of mind? Why can't the mind be always free like that?

Because we can't let go of our attachments. We want the income that comes with a steady job. We want the prestige perhaps of working for a large company. We enjoy the position that we hold--where people look up to and respect. We have a standing in society and a sense of identity.

We all need to work to feed ourselves and our families. That's fair enough. But why are we investing so much of our energy and time, at the cost of our mental and physical in so many intangibles--pride, position, prestige, identity? Why are these things important? Are they worth the price that you are paying now?

If you are willing to pay the price, then don't complain. Just take the pain. Truly successful people don't lament about the hardship that they have to go through. They know the price of success.

Now, isn't freedom also an intangible that comes with a price?

If you have to pay for freedom, that means you are not yet free. It could mean you are running away from responsibility. It could also mean that you are attached to some other object of desire that has a bigger allure. You could be divorcing your wife so that you can marry a pretty young girl. That will feel like freedom for a while, until you realize that this new relationship is also a prison in some way.

Freedom is not a goal that one should strive for like how one would go after wealth or position. Freedom is something that's inherent in us--our original state, free from any attachments, neither to the past nor to the future. Freedom is just being and taking every moment as it is. Nothing stirs your calmness. Everything that comes to your attention is tackled and handled without fuss. And you move on to the next. Like a good badminton player.

A drop of water falls on a leave, and immediately glides off its surface.

Such is real freedom.

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