Our nation celebrates its Independence Day on July 4th. United States citizens make a lot of noise about liberty on the Fourth of July. The sky lights up with the fire crackling all over the place. We celebrate our freedom. But are we really free? Do we truly have freedom from oppression? Is this independence true freedom or is it just our desire for liberty, our desire to do whatever we want to do?
I am not referring to political liberty, although many would question whether we are politically free. I am not talking about economic independence, even though that is the greatest desire of many, many people in the United States. People even come to the U.S. from other countries so they can live the “American Dream”—which really means so they can do what they want to be as comfortable and as wealthy as they might dream of being. U.S. Americans see our independence as permitting unrestrained ways of pursuing happiness.
No, I am not referring to those concepts of freedom and liberty. I am referring to true liberty…true independence—true freedom!
True liberty is freedom from three of the four aims in life—freedom from the desire for wealth, the desire for fame, and the desire for pleasure. True freedom starts with liberty. It starts with our ability to do whatever we want to do (liberty as license). Like the teenager who gets the driver’s license and then decides to drive in whatever way her or she wishes. Or like the person who gets a financially lucrative job and can spend the money on whatever he or she fancies. But this liberty is a false freedom because the teenager has to conform to certain laws of driving and the wealthy person has to pay more taxes or spend more money on the upkeep of toys purchased. The wealthy person begins to lock the doors of the house and isn’t free to enter and leave without a key.
This type of liberty is not true freedom, not true independence.
It is the same for our desire for fame and pleasure. Each of them comes with the fear of losing our wonderful reputation or maybe being considered as “has-been,” or getting bored of the pleasures of the physical world. We like them because they give us some convenience but then we are restrained by the necessary care for them or the concern of losing them to someone else or our lack of ability. Fear drives away the freedom attached to each of these desires.
The only desire that totally frees us from this deep fear is a desire for releasing these desires. When we desire “to abide in deep and lasting peace, to know the Eternal” divine source of life and bring that awareness into our daily lives, we will know true independence from the tyrannies of the three desires of becoming want we want to be, and the desire of wealth and the desire of fame.
That is what we need to celebrate this Fourth of July. We need to realize that all the other desires, although important and powerful in all of our lives (especially in the materialistic orientation of our Western culture), lead us to bondage, not independence.
May the fireworks of the Fourth of July remind you of the crackling/burning desire inside yourself to know true independence.