Being free is a secular yearning.
Since always, life in society organizes itself generating those who submit, the slaves and the free ones. In Greek Polis, for example, there was a strong distinction between slaves and free men. Plato considered this an inevitable reality from which everything would be established. Men were slaves or masters by birth and this was an association or organization not derived from conventions and agreements; these were human characteristics. From antiquity to the present day, slave labor has been one of the pillars that sustains societies and their economic systems, although in the present day, ambiguities disperse and camouflage their visibility.
Contemporary life does not resemble life in antiquity; on the contrary, it is affirmed to be an evolution in relation to it; it is a life in which progress is defined positively not only regarding technological achievements but also regarding social achievements in favor of individual rights and freedoms (the basis of claims of countless minorities). However, we have never been so imprisoned in production, speed, standardization, adjustment/disadjustment, bureaucratization, and relationship difficulties as now. Consequently, slavery persists and thus we never realize, so ambiguously, what it is to be free!
We usually think through paradox and antinomy, and in this sense, freedom is perceived as opposed to slavery, or, at least, as that which excludes it. Hence, the concept of freedom is nullified by an opposite construction: what is necessary (slavery is necessary, for example) and what is impeding (what is necessary prevents freedom). To be a slave is not to be free, to be free is not to be a slave; this tautology gives little clarification and in no way amplifies the understanding of freedom, which, like everything else, is relational and can only be apprehended as its structurants become clear.
The question of freedom, from the existential point of view, leads us to the definition of human: the human essence is the possibility of relationship. Man is a being in the world with others and being free is exercising possibilities of relationship. When one lives to satisfy needs, to fulfill desires and goals, one establishes attachments, commitments, needs, fears, in short, imprisoning and limiting systematizations. To fit in, protection and security are sought in solutions that create affective relationships based on commitment, in the illusion of jobs that act as saviors, in opportunisms, dogmas, rules, and schemes.
To be free is to go beyond limits, not to be defined by them. These alternatives, freedom and limit, are not placed as polarities in which the question of freedom or non-freedom unfolds. It is not a matter of continuity between two poles of the same axis, otherwise we would simply have “being free” as opposed to “being a slave”, to being arrested, to being restrained, and in that sense the question would be of increase or decrease, of apposition or opposition.
Freedom is to transcend limits, to transcend obstacles, and this transcendence does not happen in the continuity of processes. The rupture imposes itself, that is, to transcend is to go beyond, to bring forth another process. The linearity of established situations is always binary, logical, predictable, whereas what transforms, what breaks and modifies is the apprehension of the unity contained therein (the configurative relation between the poles of the same axis), that is, it is the spiral, the synchronization that reaches other plans, other referents. In this sense, the whole religious philosophy from St. Augustine and St. Thomas, speaks of things that are not of this world, of freedom in God, in faith, for example – it is metaphysics.
We can always transcend limits, we can always be free: love, thought, creativity, social changes, new paradigms that constitute science and technology expand spaces, neutralize temporality, but do only break the polarities established by the system, by the other and by ourselves when they do not structure us in the past or support us in the future. The social pressure to stimulate us towards accumulation, towards the construction of images, the establishment of social and economic goals, prevents the experience of the present, as much as it weakens, generates anxiety, depression, fears, commitments, that is, hinders the free exercise of the dynamics of being with the other. Living the present, without the frames of fear, attachment and expectation, is the only way to be free. The more we establish ourselves in solving or problematizing systems and referents, the less freedom, the more survival, anxiety, anguish, and adequacy/inadequacy. Freedom is to overcome limits by integrating them, is to live the present without the protections and interruptions of desires, fears, and commitments. To be free is to be whole. This experiential unity is achieved only through autonomy and acceptance of one’s own limitations and difficulties.
To be free is the humanization that happens whenever one can say no to alienation and co-optation.