A note on F.r.e.e.d.o.m.

Before getting into what I want to say, I feel inclined to give 2 references, one from a favorite film and one from a favorite book of mine. Here is the script for “the opera scene” from The Shawshank Redemption.:

BATHROOM — DAY (1955)

Wiley pauses reading, puzzled. He thinks he hears music.

WILEY Andy? You hear that?

GUARD STATION/OUTER OFFICE — DAY (1955)

Andy shoots a look at the bathroom…and smiles.

Go for broke. He lunges to his feet and barricades the front door, then the bathroom. He returns to the desk and positions the P.A. microphone. He works up his courage, then flicks all the toggles to “on.”

A SQUEAL OF FEEDBACK echoes briefly… …and the Mozart is suddenly broadcast all over the prison.

SHAWSHANK PRISON — VARIOUS LOCATIONS — DAY (1955)

Cons all over the prison stop whatever they’re doing, freezing in mid-step to listen, gazing up at the speakers.

The stamping machines in the plate shop are shut down… The laundry line goes silent, grinding to a halt… The wood shop machines are turned off, buzzing to a stop… The motor pool…the kitchen…the loading dock…the exercise thru yard…the numbing routine of prison life itself… All grinds thru to a stuttering halt. Nobody moves, nobody speaks. everybody just stands in place, listening to the MUSIC, hypnotized.

GUARD STATION — DAY (1955)

Andy is reclined in the chair, transported, arms fluidly conducting the music. Ecstasy and rapture. Shawshank no longer exists. It has been banished from the mind of men.

EXERCISE YARD — DAY (1955)

RED I have no idea to this day what them two Italian ladies were singin’ about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I like to think they were singin’ about something so beautiful it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared. Higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away…and for the briefest of moments — every last man at Shawshank felt free.

PRISON CORRIDOR — DAY (1955)

RED (V.O.) It pissed the warden off something terrible. Andy got two weeks in the hole for that little stunt.

MESS HALL — DAY (1955)

HEYWOOD Couldn’t play somethin’ good, huh? Hank Williams?

ANDY They broke the door down before I could take requests.

FLOYD Was it worth two weeks in the hole?

ANDY Easiest time I ever did.

HEYWOOD Shit. No such thing as easy time in the hole. A week seems like a year.

ANDY I had Mr. Mozart to keep me company. Hardly felt the time at all.

RED Oh, they let you tote that record player down there, huh? I could’a swore they confiscated that stuff.

ANDY (taps his heart, his head) The music was here…and here. That’s the one thing they can’t touch, that they can’t take away from you, not ever. That’s the beauty of it.

Andy Dufresne in Shawshank is the most quietly and hauntingly memorable, the most “different” fictional character I have ever come across. Andy is a true f.r.e.e. man. As Red said, after Andy’s escape from Shawshank: “No chains can hold him down.”

Young people around me talk about freedom. Freedom to go to clubs, drink and return home late without parents complaining. On a more serious note, freedom to be who they are, to say what they want without having to wear a mask of the perfect sons or daughters, the perfect colleagues, the perfect neighbors, the perfect members of the human society, so on and so forth, all the time. Also, the freedom to study and pursue what they want, whether they have found out what it is that they want or not, as long as it doesn’t entail being holed up in a eight-to-seven corporate life. So on and so forth.

I think people always have options. That is the freedom to choose. Everyone is granted that freedom, however many choose not to exercise it with the oh-so-common excuse “I have no other choice.” that they genuinely believe or try to convince themselves. In many cases, I notice that these people limit their own freedom to choose by their own hands because they willingly let themselves be subject to other people’s expectations, criteria, judgements, values and principles.

There’s this beautiful passage from the book Three Men in a Boat [to say nothing of the Dog] by Jerome K. Jerome:
[The three men decided on a boat trip up the river, and wanted to bring everything that they own with them. After fervent debates:]

George said:

“You know we are on a wrong track altogether. We must not think of the things we could do with, but only of the things that we can’t do without.”

George comes out really quite sensible at times. You’d be surprised. I call that downright wisdom, not merely as regards the present case, but with reference to our trip up the river of life, generally. How many people, on that voyage, load up the boat till it is ever in danger of swamping with a store of foolish things which they think essential to the pleasure and comfort of the trip, but which are really only useless lumber.

How they pile the poor little craft mast-high with fine clothes and big houses; with useless servants, and a host of swell friends that do not care twopence for them, and that they do not care three ha’pence for; with expensive entertainments that nobody enjoys, with formalities and fashions, with pretence and ostentation, and with — oh, heaviest, maddest lumber of all! — the dread of what will my neighbour think, with luxuries that only cloy, with pleasures that bore, with empty show that, like the criminal’s iron crown of yore, makes to bleed and swoon the aching head that wears it!

It is lumber, man — all lumber! Throw it overboard. It makes the boat so heavy to pull, you nearly faint at the oars. It makes it so cumbersome and dangerous to manage, you never know a moment’s freedom from anxiety and care, never gain a moment’s rest for dreamy laziness — no time to watch the windy shadows skimming lightly o’er the shallows, or the glittering sunbeams flitting in and out among the ripples, or the great trees by the margin looking down at their own image, or the woods all green and golden, or the lilies white and yellow, or the sombre- waving rushes, or the sedges, or the orchis, or the blue forget-me-nots.

Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.

For me, true freedom, true satisfaction, true happiness comes from within. Like Andy Dufresne, who is free because he is the sole author of his mind, his spirit, his heart, his belief, his values, his principles. They are all his alone, which, as he said, no one can touch it or take it away from him.

In my list of Things I Must Have In This Life, I don’t include a house of my own with all mortgage paid, a car, a proper husband, a family, so on and so forth, you know those stuff.

I just recently underwent a major mindset upgrade. I chose Andy Dufresne’s definition of Freedom over the mediocre stability that I previously settled on while whining “I have no other choice” when in fact I did, like all human being does. It’s just that the choice is not an easy one.

I like to think that nothing holds me down, and I can leave whenever I want.

I like the uncertainty, the fragility of such existence. It makes me feel alive.

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