We Are Not Where We Are: Real Freedom

Edited and republished from Nov. 2009

I had an epiphany the other day. Something I thought I knew became suddenly and exceedingly clear, like I never really understood it before. It seems a simple thing and at the same time deeply complex.

Viktor FranklI thought I “knew” this thing and I guess I did. I guess, though, I never believed it. And funny thing is, when I think I know something, it’s been my experience, I assume that I believe it. But in the subconscious is where true belief lives and there are way too many contrary barkings there telling me to think otherwise. Life can pile on one negative layer of presumption after another that we can barely see the morning sun for the fog.

I always remember Victor Frankl’s words that the one thing the Germans, while perpetuating the Holocaust during WWII, could never take away from any prisoner was their free will of thought–what was in their heart. The ones that understood this, believed it, got along much better than those that didn’t. I would have been in this latter group until most recently. Now, though, I understand that “we are not where we are.”

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, And we never even know we have the key.”
I’m Already Gone
The Eagles

The Eagles That’s it; that’s all. It suddenly became very clear, I don’t know exactly why now except that it was time, that I am not the sum total of my experience; experience being my environment/situation, past and present. It is quite empowering to really realize this truth. It’s like looking through a freshly cleaned piece of glass that was dirty for so long, this idea that I am not fettered by my experience. It is a spiritual awakening no less.

It’s the idea of “freedom”; without the realization that I am free I cannot create, I cannot be true to who I am. It is reality that we are unique and separate from our place; it has always been true.


MT McClanahan

An artist and perpetual thinker, MT McClanahan finds inspiration through connecting ideas across a broad range of topics. He especially enjoys philosophy and how art and life interconnect. He is the founder of TPT and his paintings can be seen at mtmcclanahan.com.

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9 Responses

  1. roopadudley says:

    I understand this concept completely even though I cannot personally relate to it. In my case, I had to learn early on that people stronger than me, and those in authority (like a domineering boss or a jealous Art Instructor) can or will try to control me except for one thing — they cannot control my thoughts, put limits on my imagination or break my will power. Physically I can be in one place but mentally I can be just about anywhere. I have transcended emotional angst as well as financial crisis and physical limitations many times throughout my life by removing myself from bitter reality and seeking refuge in my imagination – my element. Later in life having faith in God has made it even better. Wonderful post about ‘What we need to fear is fear itself’. It is my desire in a way not to let the world put a blemish on me but for me to leave an indelible imprint on the world. When the going gets tough, Serenity Prayer work for me.

    • The only clarification I would put forth is with the word imagination. I don’t see it as a removal from reality but a realization of it. Physical experience should be embraced don’t you think? In all of it’s forms, good and bad. But the reality of any situation is that it doesn’t define who I am. It doesn’t limit me –only I can do that.

      • roopadudley says:

        Marcus it is through my imagination I get a different and a fresh new perspective that is objective. I realize that even though things maybe bad in my physical world, but it is not worth my worry. That alone sets me free. Meanwhile, I find creative ways to remedy the problems effectively without taxing myself in the process. It is hard to wrap one’s mind but it is my truth.

  2. Lilith Ohan says:

    I am trying to understand…. you realized that you are not your experiences, which limit you. That is indeed a freeing insight.
    So this realization makes us separate or one with the reality?

    • Great question! I would say one with reality Lilith. I don’t think one should attempt to detach from the physical in this case. You can be in a physical prison our an emotional or mental one or both. No matter, they don’t determine the reality of “you “. Past experience can chain you up as well as free you. Present conditions the same. But I am focusing here on the emotional assumptions we create from living life. We assume we can’t do this or can’t be something because we become conditioned or because we see or are told the contrary. Now we may have put ourselves into a negative situation because of certain beliefs in which case we find ourselves in a mental as well as a physical “prison”. The first step to freedom of any kind is realizing we can think differently.

      Here is an excellent example. My Jack jack (4 years old ) loves watching Doc McStuffins–an animated show about a little girl that pretends to be a doctor by “healing” her anthropomorphic stuffed animals and toys. Her mom is a doctor too. So I said to Jack, maybe one day when you grow up you will be a doctor. Jack replied, “oh no Papa, boys can’t be doctors “.

  3. Brenda says:

    Totally resonated with this post. It is a hard won realization that I have fought back with my whole life. Whatever freedom I have , exists because I have created it within. I love roopadudley’s comment above, “It is my desire in a way not to let the world put a blemish on me but for me to leave an indelible imprint on the world.” It is my desire to leave this place gentler, kinder and more loving than I have found it.

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