Freedom is universally acknowledged to be a good, desirable thing. There are the large en masse freedoms for the many, such as the end of a war or a dictatorship. As seen on tv news, people are usually quite happy to be free from the many limitations that those negative contexts impose. On the basis of utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s greatest good for the greatest number, these examples might be considered strong instances of freedom at its obvious, maximal best.
There are other freedoms available to individuals that are more familiar to most of us, albeit on a smaller scale. There is the freedom given to a baby or child to wander and explore his or her environment. There is the freedom to pursue whatever pleasures, pastimes, hobbies, and passions in whatever leisure time people can eke out in their busy lives. There is the freedom to pick one’s friends or where one wants to go to school or university, or to decide what one finally wants to do to make a living, career- and work-wise.
As is always the case with freedom, there are always limits, limitations, and restrictions that hold people back from being free to choose and act. A child may have to go against parental wishes or leave home in order to have friends or a freely-chosen career or lifestyle. A wife may have to go against her husband’s wishes and work in a job in which she earns her own money and makes more of her own choices. A man may have to leave a marriage in order to find himself and do more of the things he is interested in, perhaps things he once enjoyed and were ‘more him’ in his youth. Individual freedoms, then, which people choose and decide for themselves can be very liberating and lead to the realization of dreams, plans, goals, and self.
But what of the freedom shared between two? Sometimes when we fall in love, we may find that we are stretched such that we are moved beyond many familiar limits (including the ones we place on ourselves) to experience and embrace new ways of living and loving that free us from the same-old. In such shared moments of coupledom, we may find that are reborn anew, changed, and enhanced by this revitalizing two-ness. Our minds, bodies, feelings, and souls are released to experience the life-changing liberation that can only come through the open-heartedness and intimacy that are only possible through close contact with another.
There is a proverb that says “Love laughs at locksmiths.” Indeed, true, deep love unlocks the many limits and limitations that we and others place upon ourselves. At its best, it is the ultimate liberation: the shared, mutual, simultaneous experience of multi-levelled heart, mind, and soul connectedness. It can change the way we live and experience, and free us forever from a monolithic ‘single’ way of living and allow us to know and realize our life with and through others to the fullest. And so it is that the best freedoms might be the ones that consciously connect us deeply and meaningfully with at least one other person. And that the best freedom that most of us will ever know will be beyond that experienced as ‘one’, and encompass at least one more person, likely someone whom we love and become very close to.
There is a lot to said for autonomy and independence, especially from situations and contexts which don’t or no longer work. The freedom of one is the most basic mode of freedom and has many advantages. The freedom of two I am writing about above has to do with the possibility that two people can, in fact, free each other from limited, limiting experiences.
In other words, there is a different consciousness based on deep connection between two people in which the individual is freed of the potentially isolating and therefore limited basic ego state which is, in itself, basically interchangeable with autonomy and independence. And in many ways, a close relationship between two people is greater (more multi-layered, multitudinous) or a greater entity or possibility than that of just one person. It is only through the expanded consciousness, experience, and depth of two that an individual might come to realize a richer, deeper, more intense life, love, and freedom.
(previously published here October 23, 2012)