“The only way to deal with an unfree worldis to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.
” Albert Camus When our movement is restricted chances arehigh that we feel trapped.
No matter if we are in prison, in a mentalhospital, or quarantined between the four walls of our home; the very idea that we cannotleave can drive us nuts, and nostalgia may arise for the times that we were able to goplaces.
But there is more to freedom than the mererestriction of physical movement.
Moreover, how free are we in the first place? And how can we experience freedom when weare physically trapped? We could say that the human experience takesplace in two separate realms: the outside world and the inside world.
Regardless of what’s happening outside, it’s the mind that processes the information that the senses perceive, and makes judgmentsabout it based on ideals, convictions, frames of reference, et cetera.
This means that different minds can judgethe exact same situation in a completely different way.
What one person thinks is acceptable, anotherthinks is intolerable.
The same goes for ugliness and beauty, andalso for freedom and imprisonment.
Throughout the ages, the concept of freedom- or more specifically: freedom within the outside world – has always been transforming.
The hunters and gatherers of old age, forexample, we could see as absolutely free.
They were not subjugated to a government, didn’t know national borders, and wouldn’t be arrested when they slept in the wild.
However, in a sense, they were also very muchunfree.
Because they were always in survival modeand lived with uncertainty in regards to meeting their basic needs, they probably hardly hadroom for things like self-realization.
And as opposed to us, modern humans, theirlives were restricted to one area.
Not only because there wasn’t any fast transportation, but also because exploring uncharted areas was very dangerous because of wild animalsand other tribes that could be hostile.
Compared to us, their world was very small.
Also, their life expectancy was much shorter.
So not only were they restricted by theirmobility; they were also prisoners of time.
And we still are, even though modern civilizationis much more advanced which leads to a longer life expectancy.
And through technology, we created the possibilityto travel the world and even shoot ourselves into space and visit other planets.
In the physical sense, we are way more freethan our ancestors.
However, our existence is still chained tothe things we do not control.
According to absurdist philosopher AlbertCamus, humanity is simply a random occurrence in an indifferent universe, that imposes allkinds of situations upon us that we have no power over: things like life and death, healthand illness, and if we are born in poverty or in a wealthy family.
As Jean-Paul Sartre put it: we are throwninto this world.
Thus, it has never been our choice to be here.
And even worse: we are bound to our condition.
The only way to escape this is suicide, which, according to Camus, is the only truly important philosophical problem.
Long story short: we are quite unfree.
Camus compared the human condition to thatof a mythological character named Sisyphus, who was a king that challenged the Gods.
As a punishment he was condemned to push arock uphill, that rolled down again when it reached the top, and to repeat this processfor eternity.
In a way, Sisyphus is quarantined within thelimits of his repetitive task.
If that’s us, how could we possibly feelfree? If we look at some religious explanationsof the human condition, we discover the claim of determinism.
Determinism means that we are all part ofa divine plan, and our lives and actions have already been written in the stars.
This means that there is no free will, andthat everything happens according to the will of God.
But paradoxically, the acceptance of thisidea actually gives us a sense of freedom under any circumstances.
It’s not that we become physically morefree; but the freedom lies in the ceasing of resistance to what is.
Of course, for die-hard determinists, eventhe position we take towards determinism is determined, so there is no freedom at all.
Yet, just looking at the human experience, we can at least experience freedom of choice, thus, the freedom over our own faculties thatEpictetus spoke about.
This means that we can still control desireand aversion.
We can desire to be somewhere else, and hopefor better times, but by doing so we grasp for the future, with a contempt for the presentmoment.
Can’t we just enjoy the now? Let’s take a look at Buddhist monks.
They have a different outlook on solitudeas well as on being locked up.
Moreover, they voluntarily choose to spendtime in solitude, and literally lock themselves away from the outside world, in order to meditate.
Instead of finding freedom depending on externalcircumstances, they find an expansive kind of freedom within.
And this freedom is tied to the cessationof suffering.
Part of this, is the cessation of cravings, thus, the strong desire for anything else than what is.
Now, let’s go back to our absurdist philosopherAlbert Camus.
In his work, the Myth of Sisyphus, he arguesthat freedom lies not in our external circumstances, but in how we behave towards them.
In his view, we should not only accept thatlife is absurd: we ought to revolt against it.
And, how he puts it: “to become so absolutelyfree that your very existence is an act of rebellion.
” As modern day Sisyphuses, we should find enjoymentin despair, reject hope, be indifferent to the future, and live intensely in the presentmoment.
If we can imagine Sisyphus happy, we surelycan imagine ourselves being happy in quarantine.
At the end of the day, freedom is matter ofperspective.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fightfor freedom and autonomy, let ourselves be captured, and, basically, let injustice befallus without resistance.
That’s a completely different story.
It means that we at least have a choice inhow we experience freedom in a certain situation, and that we don’t necessarily have to feeltrapped even if we are physically restricted.
There’s great psychological freedom in findingjoy in what’s supposed to be dreadful.
When we are locked up in prison, we are supposedto hate it.
And as members of a society with a high degreeof mobility, and in which we constantly look for pleasure outside, being locked up in ourhomes is supposed to be horrible.
In order to be free in quarantine, we mustwreck the system.
If we manage to curb our desires for what’sout there and to actually enjoy the unenjoyable, external forces cease to have power over us.
I mean, let’s face it.
Isn’t the enjoyment of what’s supposedto be a punishment the ultimate act of rebellion? Thank you for watching.