The Luxury of Doubt

I’ve been thinking about the word “freedom” recently as I prepare for a new baby daughter in the house. And I know it’s almost trite to even mention the word, but I’m possessed with a good amount of healthy doubt so it can’t be so bad.

And I almost feel like a huckster guru as I begin with writing that there’s a lot of childish notions when it comes to freedom. How did it get mixed up with patriotism and how has it become a commodity that is only allowed to be bought and sold to certain individuals who wouldn’t know the land of liberty if it kicked them in their freedom parts?

Maybe I’ve just had too much British history, coming from a place that’s had its fair share of the Celt, the Anglo, the Saxon, the Norman that it sort of makes moot the point of freedom. I mean where does it begin and where does it end? And isn’t a thing, be it an idea in this case, only as useful as the thing it is not? Shouldn’t freedom be thrown in high relief against the backdrop of suppression to really understand its worth, its point?

I have to admit that becoming a father was the first lesson for me in understanding how wonderful a lack of freedom is. In the surfeit of the self, it’s so exhilarating to have a baby that needs you in every sense of the word. And it was from that need, that need of someone else, that a surge of new freedom came to life. It’s limitations that breed freedom. And it’s rampant freedoms that build restrictions.

Plus it seems to me that freedom is not the same as dependence, and that is what I’m seeing around me: dependence on a limited point of view, hatred, intolerance, party alignments, a smarmy importance from a mass of ignorance.

The closest I come to a real sense of freedom — by which I mean a combination of happiness, nobody else meddling, and an uninterrupted obsession — is when I’m writing. Writing (or any of the arts) is the living expression of freedom because it’s a way to create an artificial world in the real one. It’s like in vitro, but it’s coming from the living organism.  Here’s an example of what I mean. In my fiction I sometimes like to write about violent men, which stops me from being a violent one in real life. Now that’s a freedom you can’t pay for, or earn, or be thankful for. That freedom is a creative gift.

So to all those people who want to possess freedom with their righteous and evangelical convictions, I say, You can have it. That’s not the kind of freedom I’m after.

“One of the great con tricks that life can pull on the conventional and the obedient is that rewards so often seem to go to those who choose other paths than those which are laid down.”

I just came across this joke that James Ellroy told on the Guardian Books’ “This Much I Know.” It made me laugh out loud:

A lion is fucking a zebra. The zebra looks over her shoulder and says: “Oh shit, baby — I see my husband. Quick, pretend that you’re killing me.”


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