Wednesday, April 1

Bon Poisson D'Avril!!

Don't look now, but there's a fish on your back!  Happy April!

So, I've got things hooked up in such a way that I get notified when blogs that I like are updated--that is, when their authors post something new.  Tonight, I got a notice that there was a new posting on the blog that I read about a family that travels the world with their now 8 year old daughter.  It's a longstanding dream of mine (as you know if you've read earlier entries) so there's quite a bit of vicarious glee to be had in reading of their adventures.  

It just seems so impossible until you read of someone doing it.  Of course, they use the word "free" (in describing the sensation of their lives) a bit more often that I can tolerate without crying, but it's an invigorating read all the same.

In their most recent post, they link to an article on how to travel the world for free.  Say what you will (heck, I do) about things that are reserved for the young, for those without children, for retirement, for [insert rationalization of your choice], it gets your mind ticking.  Or at least it does mine.

I was particularly stuck by one passage, which I am writing on my new chalkboards as soon as I get them up (that's another story for another day, somebody remind me).  Here it is:

"People need fresh air, healthy food, clean water, exercise, creative stimulation, companionship, self-esteem, and a safe place to sleep.  All of these things are simple to obtain.  Most of them are free."

Aside from the blatant and appalling level of privilege, ignorance, and western egocentrism inherent in the second half of this statement, it still knocks me over in some way.  Maybe because so many of us have been so entranced into forgetting, especially if we live in that world of privilege.  I don't know.  There's something in there I needed to hear.  Which brings me to what I wanted to say.

Today's word of the day, my friends, is Freedom.  It's been the word of the day a lot recently, which maybe you don't know, since no one told you, including me.  You might have dreamed it, though.  Next time you do that, would you let me know?  I love company.

No, not like in Freedom Fries (now wasn't that just the stupidest thing you ever heard?).  I hesitated to even capitalize it, because when you do, and you live in the United States, people think you mean that kind of freedom, which I don't.   Or maybe I do, but if so, I mean it in the old way, the original way, not the newly-renovated-to-hold-up-a-particular-political-ideology way, brought to us by the good folks who repurposed the words "family" and "activist".  Don't worry, I won't capitalize it again.  It just felt right to do it that first time.

It's way too big a topic, way too big a word, way too big a feeling to do justice to in a blog entry, so I won't even try.  But I will (as you would expect) share a few thoughts.

It's really interesting (and a wee bit infuriating) that freedom and security have come to be packaged together (Americans just love a good two-for-one) in recent years, as if one is connected inextricably with the other.  In one sense, I can see that.  On the other hand (I love mixed metaphors), go somewhere with me for just a minute....

Imagine, if you will, the sound of a sheet of heavy duty velcro being separated, fuzzy side from pokey side.  That's me, ripping those two words apart (I almost just wrote "ripping those two worlds apart" which I have to say I like a lot better, but I don't wanna go all poetic and metaphorical on you while I'm trying to make a point).  For me, at least in my current reverie, they do not belong together at all.  Security reeks of predictability, safety, planning, stability, the comfort of a daily routine.  Freedom sounds like accordions, feels like bumpy roads, smells like an open fire.  It's an opportunity left constantly open in which little, if anything, is predictable.  It may not even be safe.  But it's free.

I'm here to say I want me some of that.

I am overwhelmed with the contradictions.  A free meal means one you don't have to pay for, but freedom has a cost?  Freedom and love are priceless and free love is anarchy?  The truth will set you free, but you have "the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning..."?  I am so confused.

I know.  I think too much.

I've decided (since the light at the end of the tunnel got turned back on, we each get a turn to be the decider for a week and this is my week) that we don't have a clue what freedom is, or what free means.  Or maybe it's just that it's not a construct that can be constrained by words, even as we feel certain that it can be ensured by war.  That's very possible.  

I know what free feels like. I know what it smells like, I know what it sounds like.  I know what it tastes like.  I bet you do too.  And you know, no two people's taste buds are the same.  So there you go.  I believe it's a little something called subjectivity, which I understand is a crime punishable by death in some circles. Oh, well.

So, what does it smell or sound like to you?  I'm not kidding.  I really want to know.

Which just reminded me of something.

Some years ago now, I attended a four day training in Huntsville, Alabama (home of the National Children's Advocacy Center) on working with children who are survivors of sexual abuse.  It was one of the best trainings I have ever attended.  Imagine, an entire organization and training faculty that understand that training in this subject is not an academic endeavor but an emotional one, that the content to be delivered has very little to do with "information".  

Anyway, at that training, one of the exercises we did was to write a poem (see what I mean?).  Of course, as soon as that was announced, most of the people in the room began to squirm, much like people squirm when you tell them that they're expected to paint (which we also did).  The facilitator remained calm, and reassured us that we'd have plenty of support.  He then told us the format that we were not only allowed, but required, to follow (this was no exercise in free verse).  Everyone did it.  And then we read them aloud.  It was some of the most powerful poetry I have ever heard, and the exercise has stuck in my mind ever since.  

Try it.  Even if you're someone who says "I don't do that kind of stuff" or "I don't write poetry!".  Just try it.  And if you're so inclined (and brave), post it in the comments section. You might just be amazed.

It's called a Sense Poem.  Here's what you do.  (you can do it--it's only six lines)

First, choose an emotion or a construct (like freedom). Not an object.  Then follow this format:

[Your word] is [a color, colors, or description of color]
It smells like....
It tastes like....
It sounds like....
It looks like....
It feels like....

That's all.  You can do that.  And besides, this is a blog.  It exists in cyberspace.  No one will ever even know if you did it or not.  You can just get rid of it if you don't like it and it will be as it never existed.  Well, except for that night next November when you wake up in the middle of the night with the poem stuck in your head, wishing that you'd just thrown it in a drawer or even just pressed "Save"...but I'm not taking responsibility for that. 

C'mon.  You'll feel a new sense of freedom.

Whatever that is.


ConverseMomma said...

For me, freedom is not being afraid to speak my mind, regardless of the consequences. It is not always free in the sense that it does not cost. Sometimes it costs me a great deal. But, free enough internally to do it anyway. Freedom is a construct that society claims. There are institutions and organizations set up to ensure that we are only as free as the fear our government instills in us. But, personal free. Ah, that is totally within our own power to hold undaunted.

Robin said...

Re: personal free...there are institutions and organizations set up to ensure that we are only as free as the fear they instill in us there, too.

Jakc said...

Hey, thanks for the comment! You're the only person to look at my blog in nearly a week. I know because I'm the pathetic type to read my visitor logs...

Anyway, I'm with you - or at least comparably confuzzled and frustrated re: freedom and security. I feel like freedom has completely lost its meaning and is now just a mascot for American Values. And American Values are essentially whatever you want to feel self righteous about.

In second grade, we had "spotlight on" days where kids would be special for a day and the rest of the class would interview him or her as if she were a celebrity. A standard question was, "If you could have one wish, what would it be?" I thought about it briefly and said, obviously, "Freedom." Freedom being, to me at that age, a stand-in for everything good and noble. We were raised to cherish freedom but were never really taught what it means.

My teacher, condescendingly, said, "YOU HAVE FREEDOM ALREADY!"

And I got all embarrassed and said. "Oh, then world peace. I'd want world peace."

But I'm going to go ahead and assume that she was wrong. Theoretically, we do have liberty and/or justice for all. But freedom isn't something you can legislate. We are not free of social stigma, nor conscience, nor fear of divine retribution. Nor the cruelty of our selves or others.

Sorry. This is entirely too indulgent for a comment. Nevermind. Sorry. Okay. Bye.

Robin said...

Oh my god, Jakc. That was so NOT too indulgent for a comment. It was fantastic. Keep visiting, keep writing, I'll keep reading your blog!!

Oh, and great writing again. And still.