We are never truly free.
Society is so complicated these days that there is always someone telling us what to do: When to shop; how fast to drive the car; how much tax to pay; what alterations you can make to your house, or your flat, or your room; when you can drink; what you can eat.
The list is endless.
And there is more than regulation that takes away our ability to live free and independent lives.
Often we develop habits and attitudes that stop us really expressing who we really are.
Too often we look to others to approve of what we do.
Our friends, our parents, our colleagues – all of them seem to have expectations as to how we are to live our lives. And woe betide you if you fail to live up to their expectations.
We are labelled as difficult, uncooperative, odd, bad, wrong, disrespectful and worse - not a good son or daughter.
Our lives are so interwoven with the need to be approved of, and the desire to be accepted by others that we are often living our lives vicariously on behalf of these expectations.
It starts with our parents. We want them to approve of us, so we try to do that which they will approve of. Or the reverse, we are so determined that we will get away from them that we rebel that we consciously do those things that will offend them, either way we are not making a free choice.
Then it is our peer group. What sort of behaviour do they expect of us? How do we measure up? We try to fit in.
And as we get older we conform through economic necessity – to get a job, to make our way in life.
Soon we are being told how to live our lives by everyone: Doctors tell us what pills we should take, Lawyers tell us if we are in the wrong or not, newspapers tell us who is good and who is evil, pop stars tell us what to wear ….the list is endless.
Our lives are spent trying to fit in. To live up to the expectations of those around us, and in so doing maintain the illusion that we are all right with the world.
But, of course we are often not all right.
We can lose the will to live.
Lose that innate spark that is in us and that refreshes us.
Because that spark comes from an inner voice that tells us what to do. That innate sense of rightness that each of us has that seems to speak out of our very soul.
That voice is all but drowned out by the cacophony of noise coming from others who tell us what is best for us.
We end up depressed, trapped and unable to escape from a prison that we have constructed around our lives out of the exceptions that others have of us.
That is not to say that we should not heed good advice. Experts often have views that will help us. But that does not take away our own responsibility in making our own way.
It was the Buddha who said
“No one saves us but ourselves.
No one can and no one may.
We ourselves must walk the path.”
To lose sight of that is to lose sight of our ability to live life to the full, and that is too much of a price to pay for good advice.