"Freedom is not something that anybody can
be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free
as they want to be." - James Baldwin, African American
he spent a great deal of his life abroad, James Baldwin always remained
a quintessentially American writer. Whether he was working in Paris or
Istanbul, he never ceased to reflect on his experience as a black man in
white America. In numerous essays, novels, plays, and public speeches,
the eloquent voice of James Baldwin spoke of the pain and struggle of
black Americans and the saving power of brotherhood. ... James
Baldwin was born in Harlem in 1924. The oldest of nine children, he grew
up in poverty, developing a troubled relationship with his strict,
religious father. As a child, he cast about for a way to escape his
circumstances. As he recalls, "I knew I was black, of course, but I
also knew I was smart. I didn't know how I would
use my mind, or even if I could, but that was the only thing I had to
use." By the time he was fourteen, Baldwin was spending much
of his time in libraries and had found his passion for writing."
- from American Masters, pbs.org
This week Canadians will be celebrating
Canada Day [July 1st] and Americans will be celebrating Independence Day
[July 4th] ... so "freedom" is a great issue to look at this
week. Not political freedom ... but being "free in the
spirit." For we know that we as a people, seek to be free in
the spirit ... no matter what form of government we live under.
Freedom is not a gift of our environment ... but a gift of God ... to
the soul [consciousness] that accepts it in our heart and mind.
I believe that freedom comes through
"response-ability" ... and this is the only true way to be
free. The participants in "The Secret" DVD and "The
Secret" book, have been criticized for saying that we are
"responsible" for the things that happen to us. Critics
respond, "are holocaust victims responsible for their deaths?"
... and "are cancer victims responsible for their cancer?"
And these questions deserve an answer. And I believe that the
answer is that we are "not responsible" for things that are
beyond our control or beyond our scope of consciousness ... our
responsibility is our "response-ability" ... in other words,
the way in which we "respond" to the things in our experience
and in our environment.
James Baldwin, the great African American
writer, stated the words that lead to freedom, "I didn't know how I
would use my mind, or even if I could, but that was the only thing I had
to use." In the limited experience he was growing up in, many
people would have "responded to it" by giving up ... or
thinking that the world was against them. But, James knew that
there was something with him ... within his mind ... that could
"respond" to his environment in a more powerful way and by
using this mind he could rise above his environment ... and he found his
freedom in this response.
We may find ourselves in conditions of illness,
poverty, broken relationships, unemployment ... are we responsible? ...
what difference does it make if we are or we aren't ... claiming
responsibility for our discord is not the thing that will help us ...
learning how to take "response-ability" will. Our
"response" to our conditions, to our illness, to our poverty
... whatever we may be facing ... is the thing that will move us through
it and out of it! Our "response" determines our results
... and our "ability" to respond is powerful. Our
"response-ability" is within our mind ... and in our mind is
where we connect with the Power of God ... and as we do, our affirmative
response reflects this Power of God working through our mind.
Within our mind is our solutions ... our guidance ... and our hope.
Janis Joplin sang the
words, "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"
... and for some of us, this is the point ... "in mind" ...
that we find our freedom ... for we realize that we must turn within ...
we must use our mind ... connect with God ... and take the
"response-ability" to find our freedom from discord, from
oppression, from illness ... but most of all from futility and despair.
We are free ... not because some form of government has awarded us
freedom ... we are free because we can use our mind ... and the freedom
that we find in our mind is God ... don't ask for freedom ... accept it!
SO IT IS!
Dr. Henry Lee Bates