How to Be Free in An Unfree World

 “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” ~ Albert Camus 

Freedom is not a given. It must be earned. It must be cultivated, practiced, and acted upon daily. The moment freedom is taken for granted is the moment it is lost.

In an unfree world, it is even more important to cultivate and to practice freedom. In a free world, freedom is mere nuance. In an unfree world it is a beacon of hope, a bonfire of liberty, a providence that ignites courage in others. 

Freedom is always a rebellion. What it rebels against is anything seeking to fetter the progressive and healthy evolution of humankind. In the crashing plane of an unfree world, a free human is someone who puts the oxygen mask on themselves first in order to be the strength for those who are incapable or who are ignorant to the fact that they are not free. 

As Jean Piaget said, “We organize our worlds by first organizing ourselves.”

And so self-organization is the first step toward being free in an unfree world. 

Practice psychological freedom:

“Me in chains? You may fetter my leg but my will, not even Zeus himself can overpower.” ~ Epictetus

The second step is the practice of psychological freedom. 

Life is a poker game. You can’t control the cards you’re dealt, but you can control how you play them. It’s your responsibility alone to play the hell out of whatever crappy hand you’ve been dealt. Epictetus may get dealt the crappy hand of having his leg fettered, but his will that not even Zeus can overpower is the way he decides to play that hand.

Psychological freedom is the freedom to play the hand that Fate deals you. It’s the understanding that, though you cannot control what happens to you, you can control how you react to what happens to you. As it turns out, life is less about getting what you want and more about making the best of what you get.

Psychological freedom is the freedom to make the best of what you get, good or bad. 

Practice moral autonomy:

“Autonomy is an attribute of a person who engages with the world as an active, reasoning, and conscious individual. The etymology of this word: autos (self) and nomos (rule of law) conveys the meaning of self-rule.” ~ Frank Furedi

The third step is the practice of moral autonomy 

Moral autonomy is the cultivation of curiosity, an engagement with self-directed learning, and the courage to take risks while remaining open to new experiences. 

Cultivating curiosity is foremost in the practice of moral autonomy. For curiosity is the blade of open-mindedness. It cuts through fallible interpretation. It keeps the mind flexible and sharp against its tendency to become rigid and stuck. More importantly, a curious mind is a launchpad out of stifling comfort zones and the soft slavery of pseudo-freedom.

True curiosity is deep, primal, absorbing, imaginative and ravenous for updated knowledge that has the potential to put outdated knowledge to pasture. Which is where an engagement with self-directed learning comes into play. There’s nothing saying you cannot be your own greatest teacher. The autodidact inside you is calling. 

Autodidacts have five core traits: they have a deep drive to know more, they are not dependent upon school for learning, they tend to think outside the academic box, they develop a personalized learning system, and they bridge the gap between different domains of knowledge.

Taken all together, the sincere rebellion of practicing moral autonomy acts as a liberating beacon of hope in an unfree world.

Practice solitude: 

“Nobody can build the bridge for you to walk across the river of life, no one but you yourself alone. There are, to be sure, countless paths and bridges and demi-gods which would carry you across this river; but only at the cost of yourself; you would pawn yourself and lose.” ~ Nietzsche

The fourth step is seeking solitude. 

Get away from the unfree world. If you can. And if you cannot? Meditate. Cultivate imagination. Meet Alice at the rabbit hole of your inner freedom. Meet Neo in the Desert of the Real. Shine the light out of Plato’s Cave. 

But if you can, seek solitude. Get away from the things of man. Solitude and meditation are the lifeblood of freedom. It is in solitude where free men learn how to reconnect with Nature and the human soul.

Deep solitude is a place, a sacred space, where you are so completely isolated from all the layer upon layer of cultural conditioning that you’re able to fully realize the power of being connected to everything else. Here, you are able to shed all the codependent static, all the totalitarian moors, all the tyrannical overreach, and a serene interdependent clarity befalls you. You discover that you are connected to everything else, and everything else is connected to you.

But there is a “dark side” to deep solitude: loneliness. Within the throes of this loneliness, within the existential black hole of this dark night of the soul, there is a tearing apart and a putting back together again. But it turns out that this is the essential ingredients for developing a personalized freedom—a freedom so tested, so alchemized and refined, that it comes out as a kind of magic elixir which the rebel brings back as a gift to the “tribe.”

Practice self-creation: 

“Becoming a man or woman who continues to self-create in the face of an increasingly regimented and conformist world is one of the greatest tasks we can commit to and is a task that can imbue our life with the meaning and purpose we need to flourish.” ~ Academy of Ideas

The fifth step is the practice of self-creation.

Discover a unifying project, what Ernest Becker called an “Immortality Project.” An immortality project is essentially a creative and heroic engagement with life that creates meaning, purpose, and significance out of meaninglessness, pain, and failure. It’s a way of transforming mortal pain into immortal art. Suffering is transformed into catharsis. Anxiety becomes the medium of higher art. 

Channeling anxiety into artistry transforms death into life. Similarly, channeling an unfree world into an immortality project transforms codependence into independence into interdependence. It’s a way of owning your unique contribution to the world in a creative light. It is the courage to create your own world out of whatever world gets thrown at you.

As Carl Jung stated, “In our most private and most subjective lives we are not only the passive witnesses of our age, and its sufferers, but also its makers. We make our own epoch.”

Indeed. Under the shining light of your immortality project the mortal darkness shrinks into itself. The world takes notice. Tyrannical terrors dissolve into robust liberty under the higher power of your creativity. The artist reigns supreme. Declaring to the otherwise unfree world, “My pen will always be mightier than your sword.”

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Gary Z McGee
Gary Z McGee
Gary 'Z' McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.
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