Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Seduction of All the Time in the World

The trap is the freedom-- the seduction of all the time in the world. I can see myself getting caught up in the thought of squandering time, because time no longer has a value. I woke up this morning at the usual time, the time of my usual life, the time for my usual life. I walked the dog. I fed the dog. I did some knitting. And then an overwhelming fatigue hit me. A wave of somnolence enveloped me, my eyelids were made of lead, I had to struggle just to make it back to bed. I told myself I would just rest for a half an hour. Just a quick catnap and I would feel better. I slept for five hours.

Camus said that Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better. And the monkey chatter in my brain last night was testimony to this, testimony to all the ways I could now fill my time. Now was my chance, now was the chance to be better. Hadn't I wished for the chance for more time? Like the librarian in that old Twilight Zone episode, he now has all the time in the world to read, but at the end of the episode, he steps on his glasses. He can no longer see. He can no longer read. I, too, now have all the freedom in the world and now have the chance for which I was wishing-- the chance to make my life better. But the monkey chatter kept me awake with the sounds of all the things I could now do. The overwhelming cacophony of the now limitless possibilities. Had I spent too much time wishing, and now had no time to spend doing?

I now understood what Sartre was saying about Freedom: Man is condemned to be free. I had always thought, what odd choice of verbs--condemned. Shouldn't man be rejoicing in freedom, celebrating freedom, reveling in freedom? But Sartre chose his words carefully, and wisely. Man is condemned to be free. With freedom comes choices, and in choosing one path, you are by definition not choosing the other. Walking that line can become paralyzing to the point that no choice is made. And then all freedom is lost, and all chance to become better is lost.

I am reminded of a story of a dog that was rescued from a laboratory. Her job was to be a test subject for new vaccines. She had lived in a crate from the time she was weaned until she was 18 months, she had no human contact that was not gowned, gloved, and part of the research design. When her foster parents brought her home, they immediately released her into their one acre back yard, thinking that the dog would jump at the chance to have all this freedom to run around. The dog was frightened by all the green grass and would not leave the crate. She did not understand how to cope with and react to her new freedom.

I do not yet know if my five hour nap today is a reaction to my new found freedom, to the opening up of my crate onto a field of green grass. Perhaps it was because I haven't had a full night's sleep in over a year, perhaps it was the monkey chatter last night, perhaps it was just because I didn't have anything pressing to do today and I could finally let myself relax. I am not going to worry too much about it today. Because as Sartre also said:

Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you.

© pranaknits

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