I can hear Janis Joplin’s raspy voice as she belts out, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”

I’ve been thinking about freedom, what we do have to lose, and how we can choose to see beyond ourselves.

What does it mean to be free? Why do some have freedom when for others it remains out of reach and held hostage by dictators and authoritarian governments?

Even within democratic countries, policies, laws, biases, and hatred deny large swaths of the population the rights and privileges of freedom. Sometimes the loss of freedom doesn’t come from exterior forces but from voices inside ourselves. Living chained to the past and confined by thoughts, we deny our own freedom to live in joy.

The paradox of living freely while imprisoned either physically or emotionally poses another perspective of how we live in freedom. Freedom begins within us and encompasses our individual choices as much as the cultural influences of our environment. Perhaps freedom isn’t something you claim or receive. But losing it can drain the river of hope that sustains our resiliency and ability to rise above the darkest hours.

William Faulkner came closer to the truth when he wrote, “We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” If we look at freedom as something we do, the question becomes:

What will I do today that opens the doors for me and everyone to live their best life?

Inspiration worth sharing . . .

Have you ever had a book that you could pick up and read a snippet here and there? For me, The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker is one of those books. I wrote about his book How to Notice Your Surroundings and have always enjoyed the freedom of simply sitting and watching skies, people, or whatever captures my line of sight.

Austin Kleon, who lives in Austin, Texas, writes and draws about what he sees and how he looks at the world. Austin’s a father of two young boys, an artist, and a writer who speaks honestly. He takes the time to explore the world around him. In this podcast, Austin describes the influence of Corita Kent on his work. Corita offered her students the freedom to create: “Not all of us are painters but we are all artists. Each time we fit things together we are creating – whether it is to make a loaf of bread, a child, a day.”

The Star-Spangled Banner became the national anthem of the USA. But I have always loved the opening lines of another song. “Oh beautiful for spacious skies…” always reminds me that we have a choice to be free, and a choice to allow others to enjoy the spacious skies of freedom. Willie Nelson, another Texan, sings America the Beautiful with simplicity and passion.

Inspiring words . . .

May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” —Peter Marshall

And always—

Be kind. Be brave. Be you.

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Photo: Flying Free © Kathryn LeRoy