No freedom, only responsibility

The words freedom and responsibility mean different things to different people.

When someone says “Sam is free to do xyz“, it could either mean “Sam can choose to do xyz, if he ‘wants'” OR “Sam is not ‘banned’ from doing xyz, so he can potentially do it” OR “Sam can try out xyz ‘for size’ and discard it if it doesn’t suit him.”

When someone says “Sam is responsible for xyz“, it could mean “Sam caused xyz” OR “Sam is to blame for the mess that xyz has become” OR “Sam is accountable for xyz, should something go wrong.”

In my opinion both these words are poorly understood. Alteast not understood properly enough to leave one with access to action and integrity required to “make something happen”.

In my view, there is no such thing as freedom. There is only responsibility. Freedom is that feeling one has while being responsible. Freedom cannot be exercised, it is can only be felt as an outcome of being responsible. One can only exercise (or assume) Responsibility.

Let me explain.

The popular and romantic notions that we have about “freedom” is quite nicely captured in the video

Personally, I don’t think the video deserves as many angry comments as it has received. But I am not surprised.

The word “choice” is poorly understood, just like the word “freedom”. Choice is not the kind of thing that one exercises by being oblivious to the repercussions of making that choice. When someone says “they are choosing to do xyz” they are implicitly also saying that “they are choosing to not do anything else other than xyz and also that they are going to own and deal with the repercussions of actually doing xyz.”

Freedom is the experience of life that one has as they make choices and assume total responsibility for them. In other words, freedom is the experience of life that one has as they choose to do xyz and accept/own repercussions for having made that choice. When looked at this way, freedom is the space one gives to oneself for dealing with repercussions. A lot of us simply don’t have that kind of space in our lives. We walk around as if who we are is “someone who is not Ok about one or more repercussions of our choices.” Therefore we feel stuck. We feel arrested or inside prison walls, if you will.

Take for instance Rohan. He says he is totally free to do anything he wants with his life. And out of that freedom he chooses to become an author. He declares that he will write that story he has been thinking of writing for a long long time. As he goes about doing that, he finds that story-writing is not as much fun as he thought it would be. Infact it turns out to be much harder. A few months later he drops the idea of writing the book all together. I would say that Rohan is not at all free. If he was free, he would have experienced freedom in being bored. In being challenged. In dealing with writer’s block and anything else that came in his way of realising his goal of becoming an author. Rohan has become a slave to his swinging and dwindling mood.

Many a times we find ourselves at the receiving end of a choice that we did not consciously make. It looks like life has handed something over to us without even checking with us first. Like when we win a lottery or when we lose something valuable, or we are fired from work, or we suddenly discover a health breakdown in a near & dear one, or any other uncomfortable circumstance. We find ourselves not-free.

If we can find in ourselves a way to be responsible for even those circumstances; if we can find a way to own up those circumstances and give ourselves to fully experience it and make new choices in the face of it, then we can experience a whole new level of freedom.

I would say that one is not truly free until one is fully open to any circumstance and any repercussion of their choice(s), whether they are extraordinary, very good, simply good, bad or ugly. I would also say that “freedom” is experienced and not “exercised”.

One can only assume responsibility of one’s circumstances and choices. It is only in doing so that one experiences freedom. Said in other words, freedom is a result of taking responsibility for one’s circumstances and choices. Now if you went back to that video and listened to every single statement Deepika makes by replacing the word “choice” with “responsibility”, you will hear a completely different version.

My body, my mind, my responsibility.
My responsibility; to be a size 0 or a size 15.
To marry, or not to marry is my responsibility.
To have sex before marriage, to have sex out of marriage, or to not have sex is my responsibility.
If I come home at 4am OR if I come home at 6pm, its my responsibility.

Try it out for size.

The next time you feel like tasting freedom, simply assume absolute responsibility in some area of your life.

The next time you make a choice, don’t say “I choose to do ….” Rather say, “I assume absolute responsibility for …”

For example, suppose you want to buy a new car. Don’t say, “I have to choose a good car among all cars in the market.” Rather say, “I assume absolute responsibility for the car that I am going to buy.”

Another example, instead of saying “I choose to make a documentary film”; say “I assume absolute responsibility that the documentary film is made.”

Another example: suppose that you are finding difficulty in having a particular conversation with a friend or colleague because he/she is known to give rude or sarcastic responses. Instead of saying – “I don’t experience freedom to have this conversation with him/her”; say “I assume absolute responsibility for figuring out a way to communicate this/that with him/her.” See when you talk from responsibility, it’s not about feeling free to speak your mind. It has almost nothing to do with you personally. It’s about finding out means and ways to have that conversation.

Try it out for size. Live as if there is only responsibility and no freedom.

I guarantee that you will experience a whole new kind of freedom.