We often think of freedom from a political perspective, in terms of activities in which we believe government should not interfere.  Here are some thoughts about freedom from a different perspective. 

a monk’s freedom[1]

he was kneeling in his room
pondering the life he’d chosen
and the many lives he’d given up
he realized
how often
he’d said no

to wealth
to fame
to pleasure
to the kind of joy
that comes from feeling
others care

and somehow
he got stuck 
on all
the times
and ways
his life had flowed from

without that no
how different he’d have been
not sitting now
a recluse
in his room
with his god
but lost
in matters of the world

disciplined and humble
still he couldn’t help but smile
as he pondered
his relentless no
how much he’d chosen
not to do
or say
or feel

he’d framed a way of life
built on a simple 

and now
for him
the world around him
in a sense
only as 
what he had mastered
with a no

and yet 
since he’d not made it come to be
it was a world
given its immenseness
surely must have been created
by his god

a god
who could have made it
any way he pleased

and then the monk
reflected on
the nature of his god

on what his god must be 
to have created 
all the things that one can see

to be so free

the monk acknowledged
that he didn’t know
what god began with
maybe remnants of a former world
or maybe 
when he started
there was nothing there at all

and then there crossed the mind
of this reclusive monk
a thought 
he’d never wrestled with

what if the world had flowed
from an idea
in god’s mind 

if so
what other thoughts
what other worlds
might there have been
to which god had said

kneeling in his room
before a cross
and feeling closer now
than ever
to his god
the monk felt heartened
by this sudden revelation

as he brought his meditation
to a close
he thanked his god
for helping him to see
a deeper manner
in which he is free

and how
so very like his god
is he

From Life’s Ballet © 2020 Charles Schlee

[1] This poem was inspired by “La liberté cartésienne.”  In Jean-Paul Sartre, Situations philosophiques (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1990), pp. 61-79.