As I watch the D-day celebrations and see the old weathered faces of the men who are responsible for my freedom, tears well up and flow gently down my cheeks. Freedom from an oppressor who was very real to my parents and to my grandparents.
The Existentialists teach us that freedom is one of the scariest attributes of being human. Whether we are physically free or unfree, we never lose the gift of being able to choose how we relate to our situation. Reflecting on the years that he was jailed during the Second World War, Italian psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli said ‘they imprisoned my physical body but they couldn’t imprison my mind.’
Most of us in the free western world have physical, mental, as well as existential freedom, but now we are oppressed by aggressors of a different kind. And they come from within as much as from without. We may feel that our past imprisons us into a life that seems unchangeable. Or we feel economically trapped by the decisions we have made, but won’t give up the false freedom that it brings in favour of a truer more stable inner freedom. Or we are caught in traps made by love, sacrificing our freedom with the best and most loving intentions to love another.
We imagine ourselves trapped, unfree, unable to direct our lives. We sit like caged birds; the door is wide open but we have forgotten how to fly. But I assure you that those who are truly, physically unfree at this point in time, will tell you exactly what they would with their freedom, with their wings.
We imagine we don’t have the freedom or the insight to make of our lives what we would wish it to be. And maybe that’s the point, often ‘we’ have no clue what we are being asked to be. And so, commemorations remind us not to be complacent, but always to continue practicing our wings. To continue trying to find out, each and every one of us for ourselves, what our unique gift is to the world, and let our boats be steered in that direction, without fear, without doubt.
And even if you spend your whole life trying to figure out what you came here to do, then at least you are acknowledging that the price of your freedom is taking the responsibility to choose your path in life wisely, and to choose how to be free.