Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 19 April 2015


Freedom is a Child

What men seek in solitude
is freedom,
but freedom is a concept
affected not by locality,
since, as a state of mind,
it is governed by itself.

Escapism is the
younger brother of Freedom.

30 December 1977

“And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Christ knows how young I was when I memorised that scripture. I used to know chapter and verse but I had to look it up. It’s John 8:32 and for some reason that doesn’t ring a bell with me; I guessed John 17:3. No matter. Suffice to say I grew up preoccupied with the nature of truth. Sin too. Sin was free but you paid later in guilt and shame. Not sinning—what is the opposite of sin then?—cost you now and sometimes dearly but it promised freedom later. Freedom was the goal. Freedom was what Adam had. And gave away. Freedom, however, is an illusion. Yes, we have certain freedoms, freedoms within limits, but who sets those limits? Parents. Others. Teachers. Bosses. Governments. God. I guess it depends on your ambitions how free you feel. If all you need to make you happy are two or three pints of lager at the end of the week and a season ticket to watch your favourite team then I guess freedom’s not very expensive. I’m free to vote or not vote if I so choose. There are people who’ve died to allow me that freedom. I’m free to write these sentences. That is a freedom we all have but not everyone is free to publish what they write.

One of the freedoms I had growing up was to be alone. It wasn’t like today. Parents didn’t obsess about their kids. We disappeared in the mornings and appeared at feeding times. Other than bowlthat we could be anywhere doing anything. A lot of the time I spent with kids my own age doing stuff we probably ought not to have been doing but where’s the fun in doing stuff you’re allowed to do? But not all my time. Even from fairly young—as young as maybe seven—I’d head off on my own for two or three hours and that never changed. I liked the freedom, the sense of freedom at least, that came with isolation. Not so much nowadays. I grew out of it. I still get time alone, a few hours every day, but I find myself comforted by the fact my wife’s asleep or reading in our bedroom a few feet away. I don’t have to be alone. I’m choosing to be alone and I could choose to crawl into bed with her for an hour (which I sometimes do).

The truth is, however, that freedom isn’t the answer to everything because our personal freedoms are limited by societal freedoms and even in countries like the USA, the self-dubbed “land of the free”, it’s pretty damn obvious that the only real freedoms there are are the freedom to be poor and to get the hell out of the way when someone needs your space. But we can always dream. They can’t take our dreams away.


Kass said...

Escapism and freedom together....hmmm? Which one came first and who really is the younger child? I'm getting a headache. Is awareness aware of itself? Can we escape our own consciousness, or our concept of freedom?

Jim Murdoch said...

As Escapism is the younger brother Freedom had to come first, Kass. I wrote a similar poem years later talking about the relationship between Solitude and Loneliness. In many respects this poem is like ‘Urban Retreat’ and clearly something I was starting to realise now that I was “free” from my parents’ influence. Freedom was not all it was cracked up to be. What was important was the impression of freedom. As long as we felt free we might as well be free. All you have to do is think about an expression like ‘Land of the Free’ and then watch the news for ten minutes to realise what joke that is. It’s the same here in the UK. I’m free to walk down pretty much any street I want if I don’t mind being constantly surveilled as I do.

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