We had a special guest joining us for the first Fireside of the Freedom Sessions, our speaker about The Road to Freedom, Ryan Paugh! With a quick lively introduction from Julia, Ryan kicked off the discussion with a brief summary of his talk for those who missed our Speaker Night and picked the first question from the bucket: “How do we have the freedom to live the life that we believe in, not what other people believe in?” This was met with a pregnant pause, and one could sense the weight of that question in the air!
Ryan finally broke the silence, sharing that we would have to first define what we want, understand what it is about and why—versus what others want—and then make a choice. To find real freedom, we would have to understand that no one ever arrives, attaining all the answers of life and of the world. We require constant alignment and realize that the answers lie within us. We have to choose what we really want and it will eventually lead us to where we want to go. This requires courage.
With our thoughts on what Ryan shared, we went into smaller groups for a deeper discussion. We felt that we can work towards freedom by keeping in mind what fulfills us and meets our values. However, are they our own values or were they given to us by others, and how can we know? Ultimately, to discover the freedom to live the life we believe in first requires a journey to understand ourselves and be honest with ourselves before we would know what we really believe in and want for ourselves. Others raised unique and interesting aspects of freedom, such as the freedom of statehood and freedom of space, leaving a number of us piqued. Even though we were looking at freedom from the individual’s point of view, freedom itself is such a wide and vast topic!
And perhaps it was this atmosphere of free exploration that the next question Ryan picked from the bucket required a little extra imagination on his part to answer: “If you were a woman in all the countries that you visited, would the experience be different?”
Ryan as a woman? Talk about freedom of form! Ryan laughed at the unexpected question posed to him but he gamely took it on. Yes, he replied, he would expect it to be different. He would have possibly felt vulnerable and saw the world as dangerous. But he also remembered an Asian American female friend who traveled alone as he did and because she was a lone female traveler, strangers opened up their houses to her out of concern for her safety. One family went as far as to let her stay for a week and even cooked meals for her. The world sometimes shows us a kinder side of people and life which we forget or take for granted.
The discussion went on to look into what freedom is and why we are troubled when we lack freedom. That raised more questions and thoughts, such as how freedom can be scary with no structure, and yet a person can also be free to choose to follow structure or even create his own structure; or is freedom a matter of being free in any circumstance and, perhaps even more interestingly, freedom can also be the freedom to be anything, even a tree! One guest shared that freedom comes with responsibility and because of that, some people don’t want the freedom to choose. They would rather be led and not choose where they want to go, even in a simple situation as choosing where to go for lunch as a group. Food for thought for those of us who want more freedom—do we really know what we are asking for? Not having any freedom means being powerless in our lives but if freedom is a choice, then would freedom to choose our response be the answer? Ultimately, our choices can be our own restrictions unconsciously—bringing a sense of powerlessness, or consciously—opening up other areas that we might not have thought of initially and perhaps creating more freedom as result.
With all this talk about freedom and choices, how do we practise free will without becoming a narcissist?—A question a guest had popped into the bucket. Does free will, which equates to doing what you want, also equate to being selfish? One of our guests shared his unique perspective on the question. Even if we were to do good for others, would there not be an aspect that is also self-serving? But would you call it narcissistic? People are fundamentally selfish creatures and perhaps we need to keep in mind how we can integrate with others. To do this, we would need to challenge our own preferences, and see what would happen if we stepped out of who we know ourselves to be—our ego. Several of our guests were stumped at this as they felt certain aspects of themselves weren’t really open to change although they desired it, because they had grown attached to their views about who they were and had assumptions about how the world sees certain people. At this point Julia, in the spirit of freedom, jumped up from her seat, approached a table of strangers, and greeted them with a confident and cheery “Hello” as though it was the most natural thing to do! Now, THAT is freedom, breaking the social stigma that we must not greet complete strangers or risk being labeled as insane.
And on that note, what about you, our readers? What is freedom to you and how would you express it? Or are you limited by restrictions, self-imposed or otherwise? And if so, would you like to break free and discover your own freedom? If you’re wondering how, come challenge your limits at our next improvisation session, Freedom and Flow. Contact Weiping at 97106326 to book your seats now!