First it’s about Human Rights.
The first step on the long climb is to recognize that if you are unable to allow freedom to others, you’ll never have it yourself. If my individual freedom encroaches on yours, that is not it. That is bullying. If I think freedom is doing as I please, I haven’t taken the first step but remain in a childlike mentality. It has taken us several thousand years to arrive at base camp; the oxygen hasn’t even begun to thin.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Ring any bells? That was 2000 years ago. How high have we climbed since then? It took the western world another 1800 years to take that first step and acknowledge the rights of others. And in many parts of the world today, there has been little or no progress in that regard.
When I acknowledge your need for freedom is as important as mine, I have begun to climb. It is not easy. Our brains are hardwired to be selfish; unless our early lives teach us to care for others, we won’t. Research on brain development is clear on this point; we are not naturally empathic, in fact it’s hard work to teach a child that the toy his friend has should not be taken from him. There will be tantrums, sulks, and continual efforts to get what they want, no matter what mommy and daddy say. Until months, and sometimes years later, the child learns that sharing is good. It has payback. The parents are happy with their child and the friend might even give the child what they want once the power struggle is over.
When we teach our children that they are the only ones, but are not the only ones who are the only ones, we help them take that first important step toward a free world.
Freedom is an attitude not a given.
It is a willingness to keep going up; to strive harder when it feels your lungs will burst; Paris bombing, Beirut bombing, Malta bombing . . . The second step requires us to be patient, be kind, be empathic, not just for our own but for those who’ve hurt us. When we want to strike back, as Gandhi said, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
Until we’re all free, none of us are. The age of terrorism is showing those of us who’ve lived in countries that profess freedom for their citizens that the illusion can be wrested from us. It isn’t even very hard. Just shoot a few people in a country that believes it’s free and suddenly, no one in that country can live with the illusion any longer. The borders close, the army comes in, and individuals are restricted in their movements. All gone freedom.
Freedom is not something one can have while another does not. Freedom is an attitude of inclusion, lacking that, the word is incorrect.
We must be still; stop our animal brain, breath and grieve. Trauma research among animals has shown that when an animal is hurt or shocked they sit still for awhile. Psychologists have integrated this information when working with people who’ve experienced a trauma and have found that by being still, even just for a few minutes, the individual is able to process the crises and move on.
Understanding those who’ve violated our freedom.
Moving on up the mountain to the freedom promised at the top, means understanding those who’ve threatened that freedom; to bring our intelligence to bare on what is outside of our reality. Like the problem of the child who wants someone else’s toy, some people have never learned the first step, so are handicapped and trapped in the reptilian brain of pain and selfishness, they take freedom from others. Ignorance is not an excuse but it is a reality.
For those of us still climbing toward the goal, meeting and sharing with others of like mind is a relief and a support. To sit in the crisp clear air and share our stories, our challenges, and our failures, gives courage to continue.
Humanity need not go the way of the dinosaurs and other species who failed to adapt. We are, however, awfully close to the brink of our own extinction. We must wake up, keep climbing, and prove we are worthy of living on this glorious planet. But for that to happen, we must learn to cooperate.
As the Buddhists say: No single person gets enlightened. Until we all go, no one goes. We are One.