Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Freedom, "freedom," and freedom


To mark American Independence Day and the many layers of it, here's another poem from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. I'm really grooving on that book lately, especially as I get my spiritual priorities back in order.

This is what made Charlton Heston so gunsy.
America isn't perfect. The country itself has a short and shameful history of exploiting people under the guise of "freedom," "opportunity," and bad old-fashioned might-makes-right. However, I am blessed that I live here now, when so much progress is occurring. The house may be haunted, but the current occupants are clearly trying to do better. As an artist, a man of untraditional faith, faith in general, and a queer, I am at the mercy of so much less hostility than people living in many other countries. I recognize that an America in which conflicts, heated debates, and power struggles are occurring is an America in which progress is occurring and freedom is being exercised.  That's my optimistic view, anyway. There's room for improvement, and many of us are doing something about that, which is what makes America fabulous. But enough about my opinions. I'ma let Kahlil sing it:

On Freedom

And an orator said, "Speak to us of Freedom." 
      And he answered: 
      At the city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom, 
      Even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them. 
      Ay, in the grove of the temple and in the shadow of the citadel I have seen the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff. 
      And my heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfillment. 
      You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief, 
      But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound. 
      And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon hour? 
      In truth that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle the eyes. 
      And what is it but fragments of your own self you would discard that you may become free? 
      If it is an unjust law you would abolish, that law was written with your own hand upon your own forehead. 
      You cannot erase it by burning your law books nor by washing the foreheads of your judges, though you pour the sea upon them. 
      And if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed. 
      For how can a tyrant rule the free and the proud, but for a tyranny in their own freedom and a shame in their won pride? 
      And if it is a care you would cast off, that care has been chosen by you rather than imposed upon you. 
      And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared. 
      Verily all things move within your being in constant half embrace, the desired and the dreaded, the repugnant and the cherished, the pursued and that which you would escape. 
      These things move within you as lights and shadows in pairs that cling. 
      And when the shadow fades and is no more, the light that lingers becomes a shadow to another light. 
      And thus your freedom when it loses its fetters becomes itself the fetter of a greater freedom. 

Stay lovely,


Parallel Lines by Blondie

The Corpse Flower by Bruce Beasley

1 comment:

Folks call me Lore said...

I'm in the process of reading 'The Prophet' as well. I'm rather entranced.

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