Last week I made reference to a book called Freedom by Sebastian Junger (pronounced younger), American author, journalist, and filmmaker. It’s short, and at times feels disjointed. But it provides a powerful narrative of the past and how we might think of our future. Despite my love of reading, it’s rare for a book to cause me so much reflection. His website states:

“Throughout history, humans have been driven by the quest for two cherished ideals: community and freedom. The two don’t coexist easily: we value individuality and self-reliance, yet are utterly dependent on community for our most basic needs. In this intricately crafted and thought-provoking book, Sebastian Junger examines this tension that lies at the heart of what it means to be human.”

I’ve never given much thought on what it actually means to be free. I’d guess that few people have unless directly confronted by something that threatens that ideal. 

I think that the majority of Americans have adopted the idea that we live in the most free nation in all the world. We won that freedom over 200 years ago through hard work and sacrifice based on strong principles. We built a society based on certain unalienable rights that guaranteed freedom and survival for everyone. We’ve defended that freedom against those who seek to take it from us and from others. In the past freedom often required sacrifice, or even death, and therefore held significant, almost sacred, value. 

What does it mean today?

Have we moved away from the ideals fought for by our founding fathers? Is everybody participating in the benefits of this great society?

Is there value in maintaining a society that is free to everyone?

Junger makes the following points about freedom in a society:

  • The larger the wealth gap in society, the less freedom that exists. This leads specifically to oppression of the poor. Economists on both sides of the political spectrum agree that our current gap is problematic.
  • “Mass societies have come to dominate the world in almost every measure. Once you have spent years digging irrigation ditches, or picking stones out of a wheat field, or years working at a law firm, you have almost no leverage with which to insist on your autonomy or anyone else’s. The choice is either to rise up or submit. And many hard working people, understandably, choose to submit.
  • “People love to believe they are free…. Which is hard to achieve in a society that has outsourced virtually all of the tasks needed for survival.”
  • “Wealth is supposed to liberate us from dependency, but quickly becomes dependency in its own right…. The wealthier we become the more we are dependent on society for safety and comfort.” Do you own your possessions or do your possessions own you?

Most of us are happy with our lives and the level of freedom we possess. By no means am I arguing that we should give that up. But I do hope we will take the opportunity to evaluate our views and consider looking at freedom differently.

In the modern day, in our current environment, is it possible that freedom can only exist in our minds?

Jesus is famously quoted as saying that “you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In context, he was referring to making a commitment as one of his disciples. But a broader application of that declaration is much deeper and profound. Freedom comes from within. Freedom comes from an unrelenting search for truth. 

Are you willing to seek for truth in your life? Are you willing to challenge what you “know” to be true? Or have you abandoned truth to someone you see as a higher moral authority? Are you afraid of the truth?

These are questions I have addressed over the last five years as I have sought to break free from the prison that is sometimes my mind. I’ve written about many of them over the past year:


Self Compassion




Living in the Present


The Power of Mudita

Confronting Fear


The Way of the Middle

Accepting Death as a Teacher

I am Not My Thoughts

What truths have you found in your journey that have set you free?