Don't call it uncertainty—call it wonder. Don't call it insecurity—call it freedom. ~Osho
The vast majority of humanity is not free.
We are all taught from a young age to believe that we ought to know everything. This endeavor is what drives modern science and propels technological advancement. In fact it is the insatiable drive to learn all of life’s secrets that creates a wave of cataclysmic effects on our psyches, societies, as well as on the Earth itself.
Yet despite the fact that our technologies pollute our biosphere and that our games of academic and scientific one-upmanship create psychological and sociological strife, we push forward to know and control our universe with the utmost intensity.
Ignorance, then, is cast aside as being without benefit to our society’s greater purpose to conquer the universe. We are thus convinced that such questions as, “What is the meaning of true freedom?” are simply a wasted indulgence amidst the ever more important evolution of our species.
However without this sense of uncertainty, this mercurial inquisition, how could one be certain of anything at all? After all, it takes the question to begat an answer, otherwise the answer would be an unruly supposition.
Yet, all the same we are afraid of uncertainty, insecurity, and the unknown. The reason for this fear is not that we are failing at knowing everything, but rather we fear that our inability to completely control the world will bring great discord into our otherwise well-manicured lives.
But it is here where the power of language can be rediscovered. Take Osho’s quote above as an example: uncertainty—a word with a literally negative connotation attached to its otherwise optimal counterpart, certainty—can instead be phrased positively as wonder.
Wonder remains the embodiment of positive curiosity despite the obviousness of its nature—one must have some sort of ignorance in order to wonder at all. So rather than negatively describe the sensation of not knowing as uncertainty, one can just as easily retain an optimistic attitude towards their curiosity by giving it a name so light and magical that the word itself becomes synonymous with the naiveté of a child.
This dichotomous language remains afoot when negatively describing freedom as insecurity or, more powerfully put, the chaos of life.
Control, much like how we regard knowledge, is so highly desirable in our society that one will go to extreme measures to obtain such order in life. I would go so far as to say that most of our struggles are reflections on our collective inability to deal with our natural freedom—government regulation, spying on citizens, and ideological warfare being foremost examples.
Such attempts at controlling our circumstances are fleeting and ultimately lead to more pain, suffering, and failure. We—at a largely ignored expense—seem to have trouble grasping the fact that with freedom comes the undeniable free fall. The reality of our situation is that we are unbound by any laws or presuppositions—meaning that we are born out of this transactional existence of push-pull-push-pull wherein we cannot force control on the world nor can the world force control over us, thus we are free to live as well as die.
But of course, death is our ultimate terror, and this fear is reflected in our desperate attempts to stop it from happening at different levels—preventing an outside group from killing our group, preventing groups within our group from destroying the underlying fabric of our group’s society, or simply attempting to medically prolong human life.
These efforts are not fruitless by any means, as so many evolutionary advancements of society and the individual have come out of this chaos—for better or for worse—yet, nonetheless, the truth about death remains profoundly intertwined with life.
Without death, we cannot experience life.
I mean, can you imagine what it would mean to be alive forever? Without an end there would be no birth to set the life into existence, therefore our mortal understanding of life would be null and void.
In fact, the only comparison we have of an everlasting event would be the entirety of the universe itself where even the Big Bang’s compression of everything still existed prior to the universe’s “birth” in the form of a singularity. And now, ~14 billion years later, it treads on.
So the only possible conclusion to examining immortality is to say that we are already immortal as one slightly discernible event within the larger context of existence itself, however our differentiable identities are really no more different than, say, a whirlpool.
Coming back down to Earth, we see that our lives are the very essence of freedom—we are the everlasting twirl of existence that is free to live, die, and repeat. In fact, freedom is the only reality. There is no other way to experience life as a mortal consciousness.
Thus it seems we desire more control over our lives while simultaneously trying to feel more free to live as we please, all the while not understanding that control is the very chain that which shackles freedom. Such a realization unearths the obvious root of so many people’s anxiety and depression:
We are endlessly frustrated in our schizophrenic desire of a perfectly controlled freedom.
I myself have desperately been trying to change my own circumstances by thinking about where I want to be a few months down the road, as if that would make the future catch up faster with my current state of mind. Its as if I took the power of positive thinking and corrupted it into a never-ending anxiety, that if I don’t think about the future in just the right way... Poof! It’s gone and I’ve ruined my future happiness.
The irony in all of this is of course the embarrassing truth that freedom leads to fulfillment while control creates a ceaseless anxiety where one tries so hard to, for example, stop a fish from flopping all over the deck. Its just not going to happen unless you club the life out of it.
Therefore in order to be truly unhinged from worry, the threat of authority, or the anxiety of success, one must let go completely. For within freedom is the ability to be unconditionally happy, where one sees the random happenstances of life for what they are—incredibly and unbelievably fortunate.
Don’t believe me? Good—a lesson is only well-learned via examination. So, if you were to examine any aspect of your life, how much of it would you find you directly control?
Is it you who determines whether or not you get cancer? Many cases develop among even the healthiest of people who watch their diets, don’t smoke, and don’t drink. Granted many different lifestyle choices can optimally affect one’s health, but the control of one’s good health is the amalgamation of countless conditions, many of which are out of the individual’s complete control.
The same goes for every aspect of your life: Do you determine whether or not it rains today? Do you change somebody else’s opinion of you over time or is that the other person’s choice? Do YOU beat your heart in your strong conviction to not die today?
As Alan Watts so entertainingly put it: “I mean, is breathing something that you DO?”
You see, the world—just like the human body—maintains both voluntary and involuntary actions of equal importance and that which occur simultaneously. Yes, there are many things you have control over amongst your immediate surroundings, however there are just as many, if not more, events over which you have absolutely no control. This is what makes your biological self able to thrive, and it is also what propels the universe in its own vigorous existence.
But you see, that is the point at which we are all aimed. We try to understand the dichotomy of freedom and control, but end up we going about it in the wrong way. We think we can reach freedom by controlling everything that which is really uncontrollable, as if freedom is something that can be obtained, taken, or won.
An endearing allegory to freedom is the river of faith. Imagine yourself floating down a rushing river and every so often you cling to a rock to stay above water. Is faith the rock on which you hang?
No. Faith is the letting go of the rock and trusting you stay afloat, for the tighter you cling to that rock, the more tired you get and the less able you are to swim with the current to safety.
Freedom is like that rushing river. It is the happening of life that you cannot control but is capable of taking you in the direction you subconsciously want go. Holding onto rocks is like being anxious about the future, depleting yourself of the necessary energy to traverse the rush of the free fall.
So if you find yourself to be anxious about the morrow, depressed about where you are currently, or regretful of the past, go visit a river and listen to its song. There you will find the answer you already knew deep beyond your waking life: that freedom is in the falling, not the clinging.
And once you realize that, you will laugh the endless song of the river.