Freedom is the ability to make choices, with the power to follow them through.
Freedom does not overturn natural conditions or social obligations. All freedom is limited.
One day I fled my stuffy office to breathe the bracing air of a cold day at Bear Mountain. My almost daily walk to the top of the mountain had restored my health and vigor. On this day, however, the snow had frozen. A slick, thick layer of ice armored every hollow and hump of the land. The steepness of my usual path, shadowed by trees, repelled me.
I was attracted instead to the brilliant white swells of polished land in the open, like sea waves suddenly frozen, latent with movement. Exhilarated, I made my way up and over the first swell, on my hands and knees part of the way. Alone in that bright land, I started up the second swell. Soon I was lying on my side, struggling for traction, sliding back as often as I gained an inch by pressure on the surface with my ice encrusted mittened hands.
My boots had no cleats. I had no pitons, not that I knew how to use pitons or ice axes. All I had was my ecstatic desire to be and move in that sun drenched icescape.
I thought about it, there on the ice. If I broke through the ice, or fell with any momentum on its hard surface, I might well be injured. I had no supplies, no water, and the sun would not be out long in midwinter. It would get a lot colder. I was out of sight of the highway. No one knew where I was. I risked injury, impairment of my ability to do my job, and a possible expensive rescue.
I reached my car, muscles trembling, glad to go to a diner for a hot drink. Today it saddens me that this tiny adventure is probably the farthest my life will take me into a land of ice.
About freedom: I am free to jump off a cliff, but I had better learn to hang glide first.
February 11, 2010