It is not a free world. This we know.
At every level, there is slavery. From the 11 year-old Columbian child with a warm machine gun in his hands, to the Foxconn labourer in China who pushes himself from the ledge, to the Starbucks barista using city transit to drop her three year old off at a daycare she can’t afford, we are, without any doubt, restricted by this system we are all born into — a system created by those who came before us, perpetuated by the roles each of us have come to play within it, and carried forth by the children we bear into it. It is a system that has the vast majority of the world’s population still fighting for something as basic as survival. It is ridiculous. We are, without doubt, the occupants of a prison planet.
Still, there are those who would argue that there are a select percentage of people occupying the ‘upper class’ who enjoy a little of what we might call freedom — those who were born into families privileged enough to live with relative ease, get a good education and make something of themselves. It is a point one can see.
Then we have the celebrities — those among us most widely considered to be free. Examine them closely, however, and you will find each of them to be inherently human.
Beyond this, of course, we have the handful of billionaires — some of them even self-made — who make up the now infamous 'one percent' — those almost god-like figures who hold enough wealth between them to end global poverty four times over. Surely, they must be free.
I tell you they are not. The slavery of this world extends all the way from the human-trafficking slums of South Africa to the private jets of the very upper-echelon. Those who lack the ability to truly give of their worldly riches are the slaves of their own broken hearts. Make no mistake about it. Those elusive figures at the top who influence the fate of nations and hold presidents in their back pockets, who disappear people and patents and soar so far above the radar of normal society that they are beyond the reach of any known law, are by no means free. In many ways, they are the greatest slaves. To wield the ability to change the fate of humankind in such a massive way and to fail to do so is without doubt one of the gravest mortal burdens. These men are amongst the most spiritually crippled on the planet, and there is no other emotion we should feel for them besides extreme compassion and sympathy, in line with those most abused, battered and broken at the bottom of this horribly stilted system.
But then, what of the so-called masters? The ascestics and renunciates? Thich Nhat Hanh, Ramana Maharshi, even Eckhart Tolle? Is it possible to call them free? Is this the only way to achieve true freedom? The travel inward? The relinquishment of worldly concerns? The simple peace of the present moment? The shedding of the burden of mind?
There is no way to know. For those of us who haven’t experienced it, it remains as elusive as the idea of a global utopia. One thing we can be sure of, however, is that the analytical mind cannot get us there. Not when it alone holds the reins. This should be clearly evident by now. We cannot reason our way out of the labyrinth. It is the very misuse of our reason that built the labyrinth to begin with. This is what happens when the mind functions without a heart. These are the places it takes us. We are told that to climb the ranks to the top of the class-pyramid and find ourselves, finally, within the folds of the fabled money-masters is the ultimate end goal, when in reality it is the opposite. You cannot get there, it seems, without the required relinquishment of all of your deepest humanitarian faculties. If you could, the world we’re living in now would be unrecognizable.
Yet it’s that world that is, for so many of us, the only one worth living in.
Given this, the answer seems obvious. Nothing we do could ever change the entirety of the outer world, yet changing our personal inner world is something that is completely within our control. And when we change our inner worlds, the way we see the outside world changes as well. This shift in outlook would then surely come to change our actions. Everyone we came into contact with would be touched by it, just as they are touched by who we are now.
In this light, we come to see that it is the inward journey that dictates the ultimate fate of the world, whether it be our own personal world or that of the planet itself.
This is not to say that money or the analytical mind do not have a place on this path — both of these are incredibly powerful and necessary tools — but they are only truly useful when held in check by a heart that has been opened, by an ego that has been softened, by a human being who understands their connection with the earth, and with all of the other human beings therein, whether they agree with them or not. Only then can truly effective action be taken.
There are far too many people, at this point, intent on proving themselves right, intent on ripping other theories apart, intent on fighting their world-view to the top. So much focus is still being placed on the other, in proving the other wrong, in championing a certain system above all others. This is undoubtedly the product of an untethered mind — a mind absent the influence of a heart that has been opened, and is therefore secure in its ability to be wrong, and allow others their right to be so as well. It travels all the way from the larger geopolitical issues of violence and despotism down to simple discussions between people. Where war is declared between nations, men come to blows in person. Where drones are sent to slaughter across enemy lines, character assassinations are enacted online. Our energies are completely misplaced.
All of the negativity that is channeled into these endeavours, all of the energy spent in this moment now towards destroying another could just as easily be used in service of another, in service of a system we agree with, as opposed to against one we disagree with.
Doing so, however, requires an ability to let go. An ability get over our need to correct ‘the other’ and to simply move forward in a direction we believe in, and to build something positive with those people who may share our particular vision of a better world, however few they may be.
And it is this ability, arisen out of the humility and maturity of a mind tempered in the flames of an open heart, that is our only true chance at freedom.