Is Freedom a Lack of Responsibility?

I was walking around the late summer Tbilisi the other day. It was my favourite kind of weather - the early autumn onset was showing. Shadows became a little darker, the light a tad warmer, and the temperature dropped to below 70°F (20°C (293°K)), which has the same effect here as in SoCal - people start wearing puffer jackets and avoid going outside. It was a rare occasion for me, too, just walking around central Tbilisi and running small errands with no care in the world.

Since I moved here five months ago, I have become a recluse. I came here to write, but the writing somehow never got going. In response, I have started spending less and less time outside my house so that I don't miss the inspiration when it comes. I have surrounded myself with all the creative tools I could dream of. I've set up an editing suite for my archive of video materials, a small sound studio for my new DAW-less hobby and all the notebooks and voice recorders for my main task of writing the autofiction I intended. All that was gathering dust, and I was mainly passively consuming the endless stream of podcasts and documentaries and playing video games.

At first, I thought that it was normal. I am a refugee once again; I can not return to my home in Kyiv even if I wanted to, and for the past year and a half, I have been bouncing around the world, trying to figure out my next steps. This house in Tbilisi is the first place I can call home in a long time, and it's only natural to take some time off to recover a sense of normality. However, as time passed, I saw no signs of improvement, quite the opposite. Most people I knew here were from my old life, and it was hard to spend quality time together due to a lack of my desire to bond through getting blackout drunk. The only couple I knew here had recently left to pursue a job in Mordor.

So I sank into this slumbering mode, where days turned into weeks and weeks into months of non-doing. I travelled outside Georgia every month to do a gig, have a date or deal with things that required my presence, and on the road, I was alive but too busy to write. Whenever I came back here, I had all the time in the world and no desire to do anything but idle.

Surprisingly, on this late summer walk, I was inspired again when a friend asked me how I was doing on the phone. And in that moment, something became very clear to me. But before I share it, I want to set the scene. There is a view of modern individuals' life in a society which interprets life as a tunnel. As soon as one leaves their cradle, one is locked into a tunnel of social institutions that form one's life. It starts with a nursery, then a decade in schools, then a choice of professional or academic education, eventually a career, a mortgage and a marriage for a few decades. Much later in life, when one retires and is free at last, they have amassed a plethora of responsibilities that keep them occupied until they're dead. Some people would argue that freedom comes with wealth, but that is the biggest myth of them all. The wealthiest people on earth have very little control of their own time and are, in many ways, more limited than regular people.

Hence, freedom is often interpreted as a lack of responsibility in this context. In the name of freedom, some people avoid responsibility so much that they end up in the ever-growing NEET club. And I unknowingly have fallen into the same path. It seemed that if I wanted to focus on writing my book, I needed to drop most of the things that took my attention and unencumbered myself from all unnecessary responsibility, leading me into my apathetic hole. Responsibility is a neutral force - it does not limit one's freedom of action per se. What does is knowingly or unknowingly taking on responsibility you do not want to. The difference is subtle, yet it is all-important.

True freedom is knowing what you want at all times.

Buddha would argue that true freedom is beyond wanting, but until you are fully liberated, you will have desires, both conscious and unconscious. Around you, people will want to play you to help them attain their desires. Unless you are aware of all of this, you will likely fall into a life of non-freedom and spend all your life being a victim of circumstances. The system is rigged to keep most people this way. It is hard to explain otherwise the planet-wide condoning of substance abuse, the rise of victim mentality and the degradation of privacy.

Responsibility is not the enemy, though; it's a crucial ally on the path of liberation. Only by taking on your desired responsibility will you have the consistency necessary to reach your goals. And with a tiny change in my life - by participating in a month-long writer's workshop, I could instantly notice how the flow of energy in all areas of my life got restarted.

Life is full of these false dichotomies, and they are significant traps that are dangerous and often are so mainstream that it is hard to recognise them. You know what I am talking about. I mean, love equals attachment, or care equals control. Perhaps next time, we will delve into one of those.

I am grateful to Justin Murphy for the format and community he created. I am even more thankful to myself for recognising the problem. I have spent the last few years decluttering my responsibility stack and succeeded so much that there's almost none left. From now on, I vouch to rebuild it, yet with a clear understanding, to only take on things that align with my values and goals. And I abet you to run an inventory of your responsibilities. Is there an impostor there?

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