just another word for
nothing left to lose..."
Yesterday was Independence Day in the United States. And Janis Joplin's lyric (above) from "Me and Bobby McGee," kept suggesting itself for consideration. Not the whole song, mind you, but just that one verse. But it's a lyric that seems to surface regularly.
I was never a big Janis-Joplin-screaming-in-the-microphone fan. So, I rarely listened to her recordings...by choice (although I enjoyed the above-linked rare unplugged studio recording). But if you grew up in the 1960s, and listened to the radio, this was one song that you couldn't miss, and this particular lyric has always poked at me.
For some reason, it always seemed to upset the apple cart in my Type-A, "high achiever" world. I'd always associated freedom with gain...not loss. If I was successful, I would have more, and having more, I would be able to do things that would feel like freedom. I would be able to live where I wanted, donate to causes I believed in, buy a home that could never be sold out from under us, provide for my family, travel at will, make decisions without worrying about "how much," and, most importantly, I would have the freedom to do work that I loved, rather than work I had to do, just to make ends meet.
Freedom, I believed, came with more. Slavery, oppression, fewer choices...came with less.
I lived within this paradigm for many years....too many years. But at the deepest level, it wasn't working for me. Freedom didn't come with more. In fact, the only thing that seemed to come with having more, were more decisions, responsibilities, and stuff.
The more that I got what I thought I wanted, the less satisfying it was, and the harder I had to work to maintain it all. The more often I got what I wanted, the more I wondered if I hadn't just "made it happen" and then I wasn't sure if it was really what was really right for me. The minute I accomplished my "getting," I would begin to doubt whether it was a gift from God, or just me working really hard.
And this didn't just relate to things...jobs, houses, cars, etc....it was also a side-effect of striving to elicit more admiration from others, achieving more of what was expected of me, having more to say, more control, more to weigh in on...more, more, more.
It was like walking along a beach filled with beautiful shells and not being able to pass even one by without wanting to add it to my collection. I was out of control.
That was until I lost it all. And not only did I lose all the stuff, but I lost the thing that had given me a false sense of worth...the hard won admiration of others. Most importantly though, I lost that sense of myself, which kept track of personal goals and chronological milestones., other peoples opinions of me and my ability to make things happen.
And in doing so I gained real freedom.
I learned that "more" was a very fickle "friend." One moment I was flying high on the wings of accomplishment, and the next I was scrambling across a scree field of mistakes.
I thought that freedom was something I had to defend, fight for, hold on to...or I would be lost, vulnerable to oppression, and in jeopardy of becoming possessed. But, in that space of losing it all...I discovered that there were things I could never lose or be dispossessed of....and this discovery was my first taste of true liberty. The kind of freedom that Mary Baker Eddy refers to as a "divine right"...and one that we need to only "accept."
While wandering aimlessly through a particularly low, and despairing, chapter of personal emptiness, I found that this very space of void..."the desert of my human hopes"...was actually a diamond mine, overflowing with those precious things of real value, that I could never lose...honesty, the joy of being at peace with my own thoughts, meekness, my love for others, an appreciation of beauty, hope, faith, humility, patience...and, I was still able to do the work that I loved, right there...right in the middle of that seeming void. It was revolutionary...for me.
And it was here that I discovered true freedom. The freedom to think my own thoughts, the freedom to love without reason, the freedom to show up each moment anticipating a divine surprise...whatever it might be.
Janis goes on to sing:
"It ain't nothin' honey
if it ain't free..."
I am learning that she's right. All the stuff we can gather around us, accumulate, purchase, desire, make happen...can be lovely, entertaining, comforting, etc. But they aren't where we find freedom. Freedom comes with a recognition of the unshakable presence of those things that are free...those things you don't have to bargain for, earn, negotiate, maintain, improve, fear to loss of...they come fully developed, perfect, and without condition. They are yours and you can take them wherever you go.
This is the kind of freedom I am celebrating today....
In a poem titled, "Woman's Rights" Mary Baker Eddy outlines the constitutional rights that lead to true freedom:
"...The right to worship deep and pure,
To bless the orphan, feed the poor;
Last at the cross to mourn her Lord,
First at the tomb to hear his word:
To fold an angel's wings below;
And hover o'er the couch of woe;
To nurse the Bethlehem babe so sweet,
The right to sit at Jesus' feet;
To form the bud for bursting bloom,
The hoary head with joy to crown;
In short, the right to work and pray,
"To point to heaven and lead the way."
This was her list of rights, that no one could take away...what are yours?