What is Freedom?

The word freedom stirs up many feelings and images. It sounds undoubtedly American, and yet I do not believe that all Americans are truly free.

My own definition of freedom is evolving.

For me, it means that we are free to live our lives in a manner that supports whole health and well being, and that  includes access to affordable and high quality health care (traditional and alternative), locally and regionally sourced food, and a roof over our heads. It means that we are free to express ourselves at any age without fear of retaliation, humiliation, or being ignored. It means we are free to make our own decisions and yet have the opportunity to connect with community for support. If we are free, it means that we are challenged and provoked by others in a kind and uplifting style. If we are free, we can explore the ways in which we can contribute to our ever-changing, over-committed world, even if and especially when we are Down-And-Out.

In a remarkable story, a young man named Steve Jobs dropped out of college and subsequently created technology that resulted in a multimillion-dollar success.. Years later, he was forced to leave the company which he founded, only to resurrect another company – a wildly successful entity who developed the first film created solely on the computer (Toy Story).

You all know that Mr. Jobs eventually returned to Apple, where both the company and he flourished.

Mr. Jobs was inspired and inspiring. And at 56 years old, he was far too young to leave us. He died because he was sick and unfortunately, no one could have predicted his illness. My work focuses heavily on prevention… avoiding or preventing problems through nutrition, physical activity and built environment. A disease such as the one that caused Mr. Jobs to leave us isn’t really preventable, or at least we don’t know how to prevent it (yet).

Frustrating. Senseless. He had four children. It leaves us wondering why.

And so I return to the notion of freedom. All of us wake daily, and immediately begin to make decisions. Whether to rise or hit the snooze button. What to wear. To break our fast or not. To use a softer voice with small children whom we are rushing out the door. Or not. Our days are filled with choices, and they are both small and significant. We are free to do so much, and yet many of us bear the weight of feeling like we have no choice in what we do, where we work or live, and what we can afford to bring home to feed our families.

Is that Freedom?

For me, Mr. Jobs’ experience motivates me to make the best choices that I can given my own personal circumstances. I am grateful that Life, thus far, has given me many opportunities affording even greater choice than many … I was going to say fellow Americans, but truly, I’m in a better place than most of the world at large. Recognizing one’s own opportunities, and indeed, one’s barriers to success – personal, social, financial, athletic, etc – is critical in moving forward. It’s ok to have barriers; for me, it’s by knowing them that I am able to progress.

What is your definition of freedom?

Do you feel free?


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