The Idea of Freedom

We humans have existed in our present form for approx. 50,000 years, but it isn’t until the last few hundred years that freedom has become a right for ordinary citizens. In my home country Denmark, surfdom was abolished in 1788, and the farmers were no longer bound by the lord’s estate. In England the Slavery Abolition Act was passed 45 years later, in 1833.

Seen in a wider perspective, the idea of ​​freedom is relatively new. Only 0.004% of human history has been spent in freedom, and this freedom is unfortunately still just a vague dream for the majority of the world’s population. We are no longer owned, in the modern world, by kings, counts, dictators or clergy. No one has the right to rule our lives.

Most of us aren’t used to this yet and many of us suffer from self-denial. Like the members of a clique who have no idea what to do without a dominant leader, or an employee complaining daily about his boss, without ever doing something about it.

Occasionally, something might seem like freedom, but in fact is just the opposite. To me, this is the idea I get when I see people with tattoos all over their face, hear about women in their ’50s running a marathon 365 days in a row, or read about extreme sex in subcultures.

Whatever it is, it’s much better than the opposite – no freedom. We humans are officially free, but we grope around when it comes to how to manage this freedom. This is just the way it is, no significant progress has ever been made without difficulties of adjustment, and in that light I welcome any absurdity, as long as it was taken through free will.

In the long run, there is a next step, a greater potential than most of us are able to realize today. In a few generations, and perhaps even before, we will, as a civilization have learned how to cope with these newfound freedoms. It will no longer be be either a gift or a curse, but rather a basis to create the life that suits us best.

To take the first step in that direction, we can start by asking ourselves what could be done right now if we so desired to:

  • Change careers?
  • Move to another city or a country on the other side of the world?
  • Start one’s own business?
  • Build a new social circle that fits better with the person you are today?
  • Change an attitude which you have held and has hurt you for many years?

We are free to choose – and this leads to an inevitable question that many of us either choke on or try to avoid completely: “what do I really want to do?”.

If we do not question long enough to find a pleasing answer, we start doing foolish and desperate things, to convince ourselves and others that we are free. But free to do what, we do not know. It is infinitely easier to get your face drawn all over, take the beating, or run until you choke, than it is to find your own true core. I’m not even sure I’ve found my own yet. But while I keep looking, I refuse to let myself be lured by procrastination or anxiety. If there is a point in a conversation about freedom, then it must be that each of us is free choose our own destiny.

In any learning process inspiration from others can be a help – while not being lured by a particular paradigm or a specific person, the whole point is, that it is our own position we must find, not someone else’s. With these reservations, here are some books that to best of my knowledge can help you to be more free:

Don’t Despair, by Matias Dalsgaard. A philosophical epistolary novel. One Wednesday morning I was so caught by this novel, that I cancelled all my meetings for the day to stay at home and read it from cover to cover. The book is about being yourself. It is wonderful, deep, relevant and entertaining at the same time, in fact, it helped me decide that I wanted to work with bringing niche books to large international audiences – and thus without me knowing it at the time, was the beginning for what later became Pine Tribe.

Happy Lemons, by Thomas Flindt. When I met laughter guru Thomas Flindt it suddenly dawned on me that I don’t laugh enough. Granted, I’m often silly and do laugh every day – but not as often, as long and as and heartily as I could do. Thomas explained to me how people quite unconsciously and involuntarily build up tension, and how there are 3 ways to resolve this tension; to cry, to laugh, and through an outburst of anger. To laugh is the most constructive and has the best effect on our relationships. In short, it is both healthy and fun to laugh. Then why do so many of us laugh as little as we do? Part of the explanation, says Thomas, is that we as adults easily can get caught up in the social expectations from our surroundings. In other words, we lose our freedom to laugh and have fun. Happy Lemons gives you back the freedom, and the laughs that follow can change your days, and thus ultimately your life.

As the father of a daughter, I it is important to me that in the future there is no freedom-related difference between being male and female. I tell my daughter that she can shape her own life exactly the way she wants, and that no one is the boss of her – not even me. I’m just helping her until she is 18 years old and can manage by herself. The oppression of women, in direct as well as subtle forms are such an integral part of man’s history that we can not have role models enough to counterbalance it. Pernille Aalund and her book Limitless Life are a significant contribution to this. Pernille has taken her seat in business, in public debates and in the family as any man of vision and a healthy self-esteem would have done. Naturally and without a hint of shame. Limitless Life is her story and the tools she has learned along the way.


Image Source: Rosie Notred

Martin Bjergegaard

Leave a Reply

One thought on “The Idea of Freedom

  1. Ben Posetti says:

    Great article. I am always thinking about freedom and gender equality. It’s nice to think we are rid of many elements of gender bias in areas like career, education and politics. But there are some much deeper and more fundamental sources of gender equality in society that inhibit the freedom of women and society as a whole.