We can’t have a conversation about freedom without acknowledging those who came before us and fought against a myriad of oppressions we cannot fathom. The perseverance of the women in our lineage, the challenges they have faced; and yet we are still here.
There are oppressions some of us still endure to this day. I think about the struggle for liberation in Palestine, and what that will taste like when Palestinians are free. I think about the continued Movement for Black Lives in the United States, an arc of history that began with enslavement, and continues with daily battles to be free.
I contemplate the essence of freedom in a place like Lebanon, where the tenacious grips of mafioso madmen drag us down into the muck.
To manifest freedom into existence, we must first envision the world freed, and reflect it within ourselves, cultivating liberty from within.
I think about one of the freedoms our nomadic hunter-gatherer ancestors had. Their freedom of mobility took them into all corners of the earth. Perhaps, they did not have a choice whether to roam or not roam, but the option was always there. In modernity, states have limited this freedom, established borders, created restrictions on who can go where and when. We have these silly little documents called passports, dictating our ebb and flow on this earth. I can hear our paleolithic cousins cackling at the absurdity.
A lack of mobility is just one form of impediment. There are infinite forms. How do we escape the stuckness? How do we find freedom within the restraints? How do we discern our agency when we cannot see the choices we can and are willing to make?
Sometimes, the thing we want or need requires a very hard choice. It is when we choose to do the hard thing, that we create agency within ourselves, we give ourselves the freedom to move within the choices we make. They can be small or big, life-altering or inconsequential, but the ability to follow through with them is something to cherish.
We must find freedom within and release it into the world, let it manifest and multiply.
Not every day checks out. Some days will be a struggle. In some moments we will fail miserably. But if we’re given the blessing of tomorrow, we have the opportunity to shine again. Consequently, we make peace with our mortality.
Did I do everything I could on this day to answer my calling on this earth? If I can answer this question, I sleep peacefully, I find freedom. If I can’t, then I pray for the ability to correct my mistakes and try again tomorrow, and hope I live until then. This creates a peaceful encounter with the fact that I tried, or at least wanted to try.
We can’t free the world. Sometimes we can’t even free ourselves. I guess what we must try to free is the spirit. That’s what every revolutionary leaves behind’ resonant spirit. One that allows us mortals to persevere.
If we’re struggling with the madness in the world, the deep collective sinking that seems to be taking place, we must find stillness within, and let it radiate into conscious actions while trying to ask the difficult questions. How do we engage with the world? What types of footprints do we wish to leave behind in our wake. Do we add to the chaos? Or are we part of the force that allows the world to keep turning?
I end below a prayer for agency in this life- I proceed, head heart and hands in alignment, finding breath and creating space to move and be moved. I find freedom in the actions I must conjure into existence.
The illustration is inspired by Spillage Village’s song “Hapi” from their album Spilligion.
Big Rube’s bars toward the end of the song are like gospel to me. He says “Your freedom is beyond anyone outside of yourself’s controlling. It can’t be bought and sold, given away or even stolen. It’s a divine entitlement vital to the nourishment of the soul.”
This is just a small sampling, the bars only get better from here.
Please take some time to listen to the full song, and the whole album if you can. It’s a deeply moving spiritual and lyrical journey, and it’s an album I return to when I’m a bit lost in these times.
Jaimee Lee Haddad is a mixed media artist, storyteller and cook. She has lived in Oregon, Qatar, The Gambia, and is currently based in Lebanon. Jaimee works as a communications and media professional, and enjoys cultivating her voice as a creator/artist and expressing her love of cooking with community. She has worn many hats, including youth empowerment coordinator, recycled book repairer, TEDx curator, union organizer, social media manager, event and stage manager, and live radio producer. She also runs a side project called Look at the Moon Kitchen, a monthly pop-up kitchen in Beirut. You can find her as @jaymileeh on Instagram/Twitter.