A Freedom Worth Striving For - Reflections in Independence on the American Holiday 4th of July
What makes freedom exalted? What can our students aspire to when the "freedom" they have been taught to cherish is either - in the case of politics and social orders - profoundly inequitable and even harmful or - as in the case of personal freedoms - exacerbates a sense of existential anxiety with its proliferation of choices and optionality and its dearth of guidance and directives that ennoble. In this short reflection, Amy Edelstein explores freedom, purpose, and courage in the footsteps of Paul Tillich, and looks at how we can create classroom structures that promote the aspiration towards a more profound expression of our humanity and potential.
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Hello and welcome to the Conscious Classroom podcast. My name is Amy Edelstein in this episode, we're going to talk about freedom. What freedom is, how we ordinarily think about it, and what are the qualities that give rise to a sense of independence? A sense of being able to be architects over our own lives and to be able to peer into the future towards a goal that's lofty, noble and worthy.
Oftentimes we think of independence as related to political freedom, social rights, economic justice, and all of those areas are deeply important. There's countless restriction and suffering on so many people because of a lack of equity and a lack of freedom socially, economically, and culturally in our day and age though, there's also a sense of a lack of direction.
Where we often feel so bound by our own anxiety, our own worry, our own lack of clear vision that we feel unfree. It's almost like we have too many options, too much choice, too much openness, too little structure so that the very happiness or bliss of freedom. A feeling Unbound, a feeling unlimited potential alludes our grasp in the classroom.
We can really develop an environment of freedom where there's structure there's directionality. There are goals. There is a sense of values. To adhere to, to conform, to, to aspire to, and all of those higher values and qualities of community respect, self care, compassion, commitment, attainment, achievement, our conformity to all of those helps give us a sense of real freedom, a sense of being architects of our own destiny and that destiny being one that is good. Our students urgently need that in these times, certainly for the last 50, 60 years theologians, philosophers and psychologists from Paul Tillich to Rolo May to earlier times of need shape, have looked at the question of freedom, purpose, choice, and anxiety, and come up with some very illuminating conclusions and directions that can help us in our classrooms and with our students.
The first is really establishing a clear sense of purpose. Allowing our students to question, what is human life about? Where are we heading to? What are the qualities of a life that's fulfilled and fulfilling, and how do those qualities relate to care for others to bettering our world, to having the audacity, to envision a world that actually works for every.
For the planet, it's little creatures, it's waterways, it's human species from all cultures. If we can envision, then we can start reaching towards that vision. If we can't envision a higher goal, if that's not part of what we're striving to dream. We certainly won't be able to help our students take steps in that direction.
Freedom is not the freedom to have more options or more choice freedom is that sense of our soul untethered our soul unfurling, like a fern that's been curled and begins to unfold, to unfurl, in the sun.
When we feel that our capacities are unbound, that we have room to stretch and reach toward audacious goals. We find courage. We don't start with courage. We start with vision. We start with a goal to start with a sense of the audacious possible, a sense of a real attainment beyond what we can see, but which when we reach it we'll know is made of goodness is made of love is made of happiness is made of creativity is made.
Achievement is made of service. When our teens struggle with finding motivation, they're disconnected from school disconnected from their families, disconnected from their friends, disconnected from their own lives and their own cells. Beginning to imagine. the real purpose of human life and the real purpose of one's own life is the starting block.
We can't drum up enthusiasm unless we're enthusiastic towards something about something we can't drum up perseverance or staying power. Unless we, we are clear about that pull of the possible.
So in these times where there's just such deep anxiety, where our youth have such a fear of commitment, a fear of risk, a fear of dreaming. We wanna bring into our classroom, the whole question of ideals. and ideals are related to freedom and ideals are related to that goal of a life fully lived. We can get our students to become curious about a question here or a question there.
Sometimes we hit on those examples that just pull the whole class together and it's a delight and a relief. When we can engage with our students in the whole search for that holy grail, for that mythical attainment of nobility of a higher order of human existence, a profound equity and healing.
Reparations and transformation. If we can work around that goal, talking about a goal, putting up bulletin boards about students' goals, putting up quotes about audacious goals and working towards that, then the challenges that are gonna present themselves, whether it's. A chapter of chemistry that is very hard or mathematic problems that aren't making sense to students or history that feels confusing or confounding or current events that feel quite difficult to process.
When we have that goal as the container of our classroom, our students are going to find the courage. The interest and the perseverance to lean in.
We have an interest in combination in our youth today of a feeling of deep preciousness and delicacy around their emotion. So much anxiety, so much fear, so much emotionalism. And we have that coupled with tremendous resilience and. Students who are making their way through the pandemic. Students who have lost loved ones to addiction, to poverty, to incarceration, to the harshness of the world.
We have the anxiety that arises from a sense that our world is on fire quite literally, as well as figurative that fact brings about this anxiety and preciousness and fear. And it also brings about resilience and grit at the same time. And they paradoxically are going together in the same body in the same young mind. And we wanna nurture the recognition of the resilience. The staying power and to lessen the focus on the anxiety and the fear of the future.
And the way that we do that is by looking at freedom, in relationship to a higher goal and a higher purpose, rather than freedom as this possibility to do anything.
So, whether you're talking about political freedoms, economic freedoms, social freedoms, in terms of expression or mobility,
or the freedom to create, put that freedom in the context of purpose. And vision and goals so that freedom doesn't meander without a directionality. And so our students don't get lost in the options presented before them, you know, while they're still feeling that the container holding them is fragile, unreliable, unstable.
When we look at the freedom to envision and create a world that works deeply on all levels and brings about harmony, ease, peace, happiness, fulfillment, health, connectedness, and. When we're working towards that type of freedom, the freedom to create that and the clear vision of where we're heading, that's going to help your students more than really any particular solution or opinion about directionality in our times.
So let's bring our contemplation to freedom around this time of July 4th,
to rest in a meditation where we're holding paradox, we're holding extremes.
We're holding the tension of our times
within a framework of infinite possibility.
So let's rest in some mindful awareness. Some mindful stillness
and allow that spaciousness and purposefulness
to fill our being.
I wish you deep reflection on this 4th of July. I wish you would ease for the rest of the summer. And I wish you inspiration, audacious inspiration for the school year ahead. Thanks so much for listening.