Freedom is one of those words that gets tossed around a lot, but people rarely think about what it means. Many lofty words are like that: words like love, liberty, even information. We think we know what they mean, but then get tongue-tied trying to come up with a good definition.
So I’ve compiled a few favorite quotes of mine on the subject of freedom, from the many faces of American cultural wisdom. Maybe all these quips have something in common.
Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose – Kris Kristofferson, from the song Me and Bobby McGee
Freedom is free of the need to be free – George Clinton, from the song Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow
Freedom means you are never in a hurry – Russell Means, from the song What Tribe Are You?
It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything. Losing all hope is freedom. – Tyler Durden, from the film Fight Club
And here’s a scene from the 1970’s TV series Kung Fu, in an episode titled The Elixir. Kwai Chang Caine is admiring a carved ivory puzzle ball:
Master Po: Do you marvel at the carver’s skill?
Caine: Yes, master. And at his meaning. Each is free to move, yet each is held captive.
Master Po: Are we not also?
Caine: The temple does not hold us. We have only to open the door.
Master Po: Are we then free to go anywhere we choose, even up into the heavens?
Caine: No, master. We too are captive just as these.
Master Po: Then, why do I speak to you of freedom?
Caine: It puzzles me master.
Master Po: Is your mind not free to seek its own course, to soar even to the heavens, though you turn and spin within a prison?
Caine: But, I wish to be truly free.
Master Po: Bind yourself to nothing. Seek harmony with all. Then you will be truly free.