The thought of twenty-one days in quarantine
with minimal worldly contact sent me into overdrive. I tried to navigate the
labyrinth of my worry, unsuccessfully. The mental notes were falling into
patterns – Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and by the time I believe I reached Plan E,
I had worked up a frenzy.
As the verse from W.E. Henley’s poem Invictus,
came to my mind, I thought of the prophetic paradox he had poetically penned so
early on. As a child growing up in Africa, our lessons were interspersed with
stories of living legends, particularly of those who personified Freedom.
Nelson Mandela has remained an inspiration for me. Mandela spent 27 years imprisoned,
but walked out a stronger “mature man”, in his own words. He had the choice of mourning
and succumbing to his imprisonment as the end of his life, or the Freedom To
look at his solitary confinement, as a Pause, a Reflection and a series of
contemplative moments, fortifying his vision and mission for a better tomorrow.
He chose the latter.
What better moment than now to
acknowledge the high premium we place on Freedom! These 21 days, I contemplated, could be a
choice for me too. The Freedom to have all of the 24 hours to craft my dream
day; The Freedom to begin converting my purpose and aspiration into reality;
The Freedom to embrace a new found lease of life and reset the clock on so many
gauges; The Freedom to reinvent myself and enjoy the moments of solitude and
silence. This was the Freedom To, I realized, as I made the mental
Pondering over the stories of Madiba,
(as he was fondly referred to), I thought of his interpretation of
Freedom. It was extracted from a
virtually non-existent source, yet it went on to redefine history. Relying on
Isaiah Berlin’s analytical chronicles of Freedom, one can visualize, often
enough, the source of Freedom driving us – Freedom From (Negative) or Freedom
To (Positive). Conquering obstacles and making way through the external
interferences which prevent us from doing what we want, illustrates Freedom From.
It focuses on the struggle, the strife, the need to want to overcome a barrier.
It drives our energies and attention to ensuring that “we are slave to none”,
thus dutifully engaging in problem solving, like I did in the beginning. On the
other hand, to be positively
free, or Freedom
To, is to be one’s own master,
acting rationally and choosing responsibly in line with one’s purpose and
beliefs. Freedom To reframes reality – with limitless possibilities,
alternate liberties, with the abilities we do possess and the options we do
have, scaling them incessantly. Positive freedom is the Freedom To embrace
control, and vividly and hungrily make choices – Like the one Nelson Mandela
Today, we have a plethora of
suggestions and solutions for maximizing productivity during our time in
quarantine, for amplifying our output as we work from home and exploiting the
meaningful interactions with family. However, we run the risk of focusing on
the transient utility of this time at our disposal as we continue the count
down to 21 days. Harnessing our forces into tiding over a current obstacle,
with a hope for an improved tomorrow, may earn perceptual wins. Instead, by embracing our new Freedom To, we
can reset the SELF, receiving the opportunity to craft a Version 2. We can pick to enjoy a range of experiences
and engage in pursuits like there is no other tomorrow, to build the blocks translating
our purpose into reality on a daily basis with less fear, and to have an
abundance of time on hand to maximize our sense of being. It is embracing the Know
that this is the best and only way forward. With every consequent choice
of Freedom To, we create our own purpose, shape our own destiny, make our own lives,
and most importantly, Act, instead of being Acted upon. For, in Henley’s words:
It matters not how strait the gate, How charged
with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.