Another bout of thinking aloud …
Yesterday I had to be “not me” for a while. It left an uncomfortable, ICK, feeling.
Nothing dramatic. I had to socialize with a small group of people I barely know or don’t know at all, and I felt compelled to turn on my handy-dandy “not me” persona. This isn’t a deception. It’s just some aspect of me, comprising maybe 5 percent of my personality, that must jump to the forefront in social situations. Friendly and full of both attentiveness and stories, maybe a little eccentric though not crossing any lines, alert and on the ball. The “not me” applies the needed dab of social grease.
But I don’t like that person very much. Being her wipes me out. Afterward, it embarrasses me to be in her skin. I socialize, I get the ICK.
The ICK I feel after being my social “not me” is a pale shadow of what a freedomista mole might feel as s/he goes about the dirty work of infiltration. But it’s still that sensation that reminds you when you’re not being your truest self.
The ICK brings me back to the post on this very day last month, the one about being moles in our own lives and seeking authenticity somewhere within the realm of reality.
To what extent can we be our best freedomista selves without being sellouts or convicts or hypocrites or poor broke suckers or just general assh*les? And to what extent can we really even know what’s our best course?
The living-within-reality-perameters issue has no one solution. This is something everybody’s heard me drumming on for 20+ years, and I’m guessing the core audience of this blog is here largely because of this conviction: Your best life may be radically different than anybody else’s. Not just radically different from some suburban norm, but different than any other freedomista’s.
Forgive me for repeating, but there is room in this world for freedomista cave dwellers and freedomista penthouse residents. There’s room in it for hard-partying urbanites and sedate but hardworking rural folk. Or vice versa. Room in it for people with rec rooms like Burt Gummer’s and for people who personally don’t want guns but cheer your right to do so. For the religious and the irreverent. The pro-choice and pro-life. The pot-inhaling retired hippie and the buzz-cut ex-military guy. The grizzled survivalist and the millennial couple who think being more than five miles from a Whole Foods is too great a sacrifice.
On our way to being what we ought to be, many forces stop us. Law. Custom. Family. Fear. Laziness. Indecisiveness. Schooling. Lack of money. Bad health. Bad choices. Unrealistic expectations.
But the one force I wish would not try so hard to interfere is our fellow travelers on the road to freedom. Oh, lord. The people who insist that you must do this or that if you want real freedom are everywhere. You must own guns if you really believe in self-defense. You must be a Christian to be a patriot. You must be an athiest to be free because otherwise you’re just a brainwashed patsy. You must move offshore if you want to be free. Trade in precious metals. Move to Haven A, B, C, or D. Get involved in multi-level marketing schemes. Join a militia. Give to some legal fund. Follow some particular school of economics. Move into the Rocky Mountains. Buy into a (crooked) land development. Whatever.
It’s great that so much information and so many options are out there. It’s great that so many people aim to be helpful. The problem is all those “musts” and the degree of influence those pedlars of absolutism have.
Some freedom seekers get wise to much of that nonsense right away when we start growing into our lives. But in seeking freedom, nearly all of us start from some position of unfreedom and much inexperience. It’s easy to be persuaded off our own path. Or to take a path that sounds like ours, only to run into … the ICK factor. Because something we set about to do left us not being and doing what we ought.
Other freedom seekers are more naive and more loyal and end up falling for some real dangers (cults and financial scams), then it’s harder for them to extricate themselves.
However it happens, if we heed the “musts” instead of our guts and our brains, we usually end up in some uncomfortable moment discovering that we have been “not me.” Which feels not good. And now we either have to backtrack or trudge on from here. The ICK factor, gross though it can feel, is the soul’s equivalent of a check-engine light.
It would just be really, really nice if, instead of trying to drag others in their chosen direction, the “musters” would say, deep in their heart of hearts, “To each his own,” and go forward with respect.
Nobody has to give active support to another freedomista whose choices are incompatible or even despicable in our eyes. But down at the bottom of our souls we need to be able to say, “It’s her life to live as she wishes. As long as she respects my right to do the same, then we’re good.”
That latter, of course, is the big IF. How many today respect the rights of others to live as they wish? Even among people who posture as or long to be seen as supporters of freedom?
But that’s the political question and heaven forbid I fear it’s easier than the question of finding our best and freest self amid all the influences of enemies, realities, and friends. Why are there so many people, right here in the freedom movement, who set up these little one-way cattle chutes and demand everyone enter?
Why should we have to struggle against our so-called friends, as well as our legions of opponents?
The other well-known problem of freedom seeking (or life in general), of course, is that reality has a bitchy sense of humor. You could head down your truest path — with the best life, the best work, realistic goals, love and happiness, and a shining knowledge of your purpose in life — and an 18-wheeler intersects your existence. Or (much more ordinarily), you could reach a goal and discover it doesn’t satisfy you. Or you love what you’re doing but suddenly your spouse, who’s gone through recent changes, doesn’t want it any more.
I’m thinking of Commentariat member Ellendra, a young woman with a gift for growing things. She saved up and just when she got money to buy her homesteading land — chronic illness. She was in a wheelchair for a while, if I recall correctly. Only years later is she able to begin to return to her dream.
Or the farmers who imagine they’re engaged in innocent trade, only to have federal vultures swooping down on them, bringing jail and financial ruin.
Or the thousands and millions of everymen and women busted, bamboozled, shot, divorced, betrayed, uprooted, bankrupted, drafted, or otherwise catapulted out of their life’s course.
There are so many ways for that Reality B*tch to do us in.
We can minimize the risk in a lot of ways: being careful who we trust; looking before leaping; being financially and psychologically prepared; using plain, ordinary uncommon sense; practicing privacy; avoiding making certain sorts of enemies; being born the child of a millionaire who bails us out of every trouble. But we are at those whims.
Life is chaos. We just hope we get to stay in a nice quiet little eddy of it while we live out our plans.
A good thing, though, is how the smaller whorls of chaos can be so enriching — and so good at helping us find directions we’d not otherwise have taken. A friend says, “Hey, help me deliver this car across the country,” and somewhere in the middle of nowhere a lightning bolt of belonging strikes and you know this is where you were meant to be, even though you’ve never heard of the place before. You’re not looking for love, but you find it anyway. You sit in the smoky dark of a peyote ceremony and meet your spirit guide, who reveals secrets you never knew. You move to a new neighborhood and meet a person who introduces you to powerful ideas or a different way of life. I’ll bet half of you here have stories like these: Big, positive life changes from choices that seemed inconsequential or merely random and whimsical.
Bottom line: We can never find some mythical “authentic self” because the potential to become that person and live that person’s Great Life begins to be snuffed out by the time our first diaper is changed. We can only start with whatever imperfect, confused, conflicted, broke, hampered, imprisoned, doubt-filled, brilliant, hopeful, depressed, scared, ambitious, inert, made-up-of-spare-social-and-intellectual parts self we have and go forward.
And then, as all those ordinary and extraordinary difficulties, distractions, acts of destruction, ditzy spells or downward spirals beset us, we pick ourselves up from wherever we land, re-evaluate, and go on as best we’re able. And thus grow until we die.
Keeping with our “mole” theme, freedom seeking (and life!) is more like tunneling blind than like walking a path. If it’s a path, it’s one we have to chop with a machete through a dense jungle of confusing and sometimes contradictory signs, impulses, opportunities, and obstacles.
And that mostly unglamorous process is what it means to lead an authentic life — and to be free. And that’s also why it matters to be free, because time and again in our lives, ever adjusting here or there, we must make our own choices. Not the ones some arrogant, ignorant law spewer insists upon. Not the ones our parents directed us toward. Not the ones our friends or our boss or some tacticool expert on social media thinks we should make. But the ones we can make ourselves, with free-flowing information but no BS pressure, within the framework of our given reality.
There’s an apropos quote from Dwight Eisenhower that somebody posted here a few months ago. I’ll go find it.
Ah. Here it is:
And I think that’s about it. Plans rarely hold up under reality. The real value lies in the process of being conscious about our goals, our actions, potential consequences, and reactions, observing our situation, and thinking steps ahead.
It’s true not only for battle or business, but for life. To plan is to go forward consciously, then to adjust for reality. Pretty soon, you may have adjusted beyond all recognition. (Or not; some people have the rare gift of lifelong clarity.) But by that method we’ve become (to whatever extent possible) “The master of my fate … the captain of my soul.”
In the end, our life may have been large or small, triumphant or tragic, exciting or dull, or maybe just the standard human life lived at a pitch of 7 out of 10. Our achievements may be monumental or they may meaningful only to us and those close to us. We may not have any achievements, other than making our way through life. We may have incredible achievements that no one recognizes. But great or non-great, we’ve used our freedom to mold our existence.
Freedom is not to sit in your mother’s basement that’s lined with books on TEOTWAWKI where you spend 16 hours a day arguing with your imaginary friends about whether 1911s are superior to Glocks (although, “It’s your life …” if that’s what you choose and Mom is willing to endure you).
It’s acting consciously and moving forward while honoring your own and others’ liberty. Where you end up is between you and that nasty-humored b*tch.
There, I’ve solved the mystery of life for you. You are free to disagree.