Thinking about freedom

I have less than one month to finish my History of Psychology class and I should be studying instead of writing for fun.  I’m justifying my actions by convincing myself that I’ll be more productive after a break.  In reality I’ll probably just feel more tired.  I’m actually enjoying this class, although I’ll be relieved when it’s completed.  For now though, it’s giving me the opportunity to use my brain in ways it hasn’t been used in a long time.  There’s a good chance that a couple months from now I won’t remember most of the things that I’ve read, but for now it feels good to be learning.

Here is a sampling of some of this week’s deep thoughts:

Karl Marx thought that human behavior was controlled by society.  Sigmund Freud thought that human behavior was controlled by biology.  Erich Fromm considered the possibility that human behavior wasn’t completely determined by either society or biology.  He believed that humans have the potential to make free choices.  Here in America, in the land of the free, it’s easy to forget that the concept of individuality hasn’t always been a given, and in some cultures it’s still a pipe dream.   For example, if I had been born a peasant in the Middle Ages, then I would have stayed a peasant.  My life would have been predetermined by my birth.  But nowadays, at least in America, one can conceivably be born poor and grow up to be rich.  One can choose to get an education or maybe move across the country if they feel so inclined.

I imagine that being a peasant probably wasn’t much fun, but at least it wasn’t complicated.  Very few choices had to be made.  Life had structure.  If you think about it, it’s unlikely that peasants experienced mid-life crises.   Freedom, you see, comes with a downside according to Fromm.  He said things like loneliness, confusion and alienation are byproducts of freedom.  He went on to say that we do things to “escape from freedom” in order to avoid the discomfort that it causes.

He said we either a) submit to an authoritarian figure, or become one, b) become destructive to ourselves or others, or c) hide ourselves within the culture at large, making ourselves as inconspicuous as possible.

Each person, at least within our own culture, has to choose how to cope with freedom.  For most of us it isn’t all or nothing.  We experience it in varying degrees.  We try to find that balance of how much freedom we can tolerate, and then adjust our lives accordingly.

All of this has me questioning where I fit into the spectrum of freedom.  Do I try to avoid it or do I embrace it?  I guess it depends on the circumstances.  I do however feel thankful to live where I live, during the time when I live.  At least I have the freedom to consider all of these complicated issues.

Jury duty/Time management

On Monday morning I woke up at 3:45am feeling anxious about how busy my life has become.   Finally at 5:00 I got out of bed, made coffee and wrote in my journal for a while.  I find that journaling helps me narrow down solutions to some of the bigger problems I have to face and on that morning I wrote about needing to manage all of the different things I have going on right now.

When I enrolled in two classes in January I knew I was going to have a full schedule until the end of the semester, but a few unexpected things have come up that had I known about may have convinced me to hold off for a while on the classes.  Since the beginning of February we’ve decided to explore the idea of putting our house on the market, our son’s schooling situation has changed and I’ve had to increase my hours at work by six hours a week in order to keep some important benefits.

So how am I finding the time to write something other than essays for my class right now?  Well back in December when I received my summons to jury duty in the mail I thought I was being clever by deferring it to February and for the past two days I’ve been sitting on uncomfortable benches in the hallway of the courthouse.  Thankfully I had been warned about the jury selection process requiring an awful lot of waiting around, so I brought along lots of stuff to keep my busy.

A lot of folks here are complaining about all of this down time but I’ve decided to welcome this unexpected reprieve.   Yesterday I got caught up on some reading for one of my classes, and today I’m getting the opportunity to write for my much-neglected blog.  I’ve also had time to reread the journal I’ve been keeping for the past few months which reminded me that problems I’ve been overwhelmed by in the past have come and gone.  It helped me relax a little and realize that I can do this; I can finish these classes, be a good parent and systematically work toward putting our house up for sale.

Who knows, if they keep me here a while longer I may even have time to finish Pride and Prejudice.  I started it in December when I thought I’d have plenty of time to plow through my booklist.  This jury selection process really isn’t so bad but if I am actually chosen to serve for this trial, which is expected to go for two to three weeks, I may find myself bursting into tears in front of the attorneys and the judge.  Either way, I guess I’d be off the hook.  I’m pretty sure they’d let me go at that point.

Fear and Fascination

When I was a little girl I sat through a lot of church services.  I’m talking two church services every Sunday until I was about fourteen years old.  Most of them have blurred together into one memory that includes the strong scent of ladies perfume, singing hymns and daydreaming the hours away while the pastor delivered his message.  Always at the end of the service the congregation was invited to go to the front of the church for an “altar call;” which meant we had the opportunity to make ourselves right with Jesus by recommitting our lives to Him and confessing our sins.

One service though stands out from all the others.   A missionary family from Calcutta visited when I was about nine years old to share their experiences and to gather support for their work with the poorest people in the city.   They told stories of leprosy, spiritual darkness and poverty the likes of which I could scarcely imagine with my limited Colorado small-town-girl perspective.  After that particular service my own personal altar call involved lots of pleading, praying and crying, not for the little children shown in the slideshows, but for God to please never make me go to India.

Perhaps my childhood fear of having to go to India actually planted the seeds of what has become for me a fascination with all things Indian.  Still though, going there didn’t really cross my mind until recently.  It seemed too far out of reach.

Two weeks ago at the library we received a greeting card from a young man who taught a digital photography class to kids in Homer.  The card featured a photo of his most recent students in a small school in northeastern India, not far from Nepal.  Something happened when I saw the card.  I went back to it several times over the day and looked again at the school children on the cover.   For some reason the card made it all seem possible.

My growing desire to go to India wasn’t something I shared with many people and I didn’t expect my family to jump on board with my crazy idea.  But much to my amazement they’re into it.  We don’t know any of the details yet, only that it will take about two years to save enough money to make it all happen.  A savings account has been opened. The beginning of a plan is in place.  I haven’t felt this excited in a long time.

A name that fits…

So I’ve spent a while trying to come up with the perfect name for a blog.  What I’ve discovered is that a lot of the good names are already taken, a result, I believe, of the fact that I’m always about a decade behind the game when it comes to technology.  But I think Lofty Minded works for me.  Imagining that I have something to say that others can relate to or care about seems a little lofty.  And all along the way I’m going to try to be mindful of what I say, and how I say it.  One of my very best friends has set a good example of mindfulness.  She thinks before she talks and as a result I trust that she will keep my secrets, give good advice and never respond in a way that will cause her to have regrets later on.

Right off the bat I want to say thanks to my cousin Bob for encouraging me to get my writing out there.   In a strange turn of events involving facebook I connected with him and know him better now than I ever did in the real world.  Maybe it’s because we have several state lines between us that I’ve trusted him to read some of my writing.  He’s always been kind, even when we’ve disagreed politically and more importantly, when I made him suffer through my not-so-good poetry phase.

What’s this blog going to be about you ask?  Well, sorry to let you down, but I don’t know yet.  After giving it some thought though I decided to start it anyhow.  One thing I’ve learned about myself that if I think too much about doing something, I tend not to do it.  I don’t want to rule any topic out at this point, although I’m going to shy away from politics for now.   What’s been on my mind lately is church, so that’s where I’m going to start.

I haven’t been a churchgoer for many years, and I don’t plan on going back.  But recently I’ve been missing aspects of it.  I miss the social network that comes with church attendance.  When my daughter was born 14 years ago the Methodist ladies made sure I didn’t have to cook a meal for two weeks.   That’s the sort of thing I miss.  And the music.  I don’t have many opportunities to sing (besides in the car or the shower) any more, and I do love the magic that happens when a roomful of people raise their voices together.    Most of my family of origin still adheres to the denomination I grew up in, the Assemblies of God Church, so by not attending or believing in its doctrine anymore, I feel a little like an outsider, which is a drag.

When it comes down to it, there’s still more about church that I don’t miss, so I won’t be changing my Sunday morning routine any time soon.    I’m just finally able to recognize that I have a few empty spots in my life since I stopped going.