Un-Freedom


In my spiritual direction training, I was taught to consider places/spaces/times of un-freedom. This notion seemed thought provoking to me because it intentionally subverted the understanding of imprisonment. I don’t recall if that intention included consideration for those situations where people were physically bound or detained not wanting to appear as though anyone would make light of those circumstances.

It was thought provoking for me because I immediately question, with bias, the “invitation” from a dominant-culture person for me to sense or to recognize or vocalize or acknowledge un-freedom when there was un-freedom all around me that was presumed absent. The invitation became vacuous. It was akin to standing outside in a rainstorm and being invited to notice the number of times I could sense being drenched.

I periodically think of that lesson because every now and then, its relativity surfaces in how my mind decides the best way to let a dominant culture person know (in a shorthand kind of way) I am uncomfortable. And that’s peculiar I think. I could say I was uncomfortable and be questioned on how I might be made to feel more comfortable. But if I say I feel un-freedom, the same negotiation doesn’t happen and we are able to move more quickly to what is actually helpful.

It makes me question what freedom looks like to them. Freedom is such a strong sense of being. It is more than just a physical manifestation of time and place. It incorporates the mental, psychological and spiritual. I think they get that but somehow the scale must be different. One person’s sense of freedom might tell them it would be fun to do some leisurely window shopping in an affluent store downtown. Another person’s sense of freedom might let them feel at ease in the neighborhood where the store is located so that they might consider whether or not to walk through the door.

Un-freedom also encompasses the intellectual machinations it takes to endure the constant bombardment of presumption, interpretation and translation. It is the weight of bearing the ignorances of cultural attempts at hospitality which enjoin our embodied experiences of relationship like emotional anchors. And enduring that, there are some days where there is only un-freedom.