CHASING DOWN THE MUSE: Freedom is fragile, even in the land of freedom

Freedom’s just another word… — Kris Kristofferson

The rain has washed away the dirt. The sky is a lovely cerulean blue at the edges. A few straggling clouds drift through on the cool breeze. Leaves shine like the sea in the sunshine. Birds flit about or sit high on their perches singing out their many songs. Dolphins still ply the ocean close to shore at Crystal Cove. The calendar finally decrees it is autumn. All’s right with the world…. 

Wait! That can’t be right. What about…? Outside my own small milieu, other realities exist. So very many people’s freedom is compromised. Everything is NOT all right with the world.

“Freedom!” Jan Sattler had asked the students in the mixed media workshop that Suzette Rosenthal and I taught together what it was they liked best about the class.


Beth had quickly responded with just that one word. She was speaking of the freedom to move freely in the creative realm. But it started me thinking. What is freedom? What we each call freedom may be so very different.

On our daily walk, Catharine and I spoke just this morning of the Japanese-American Museum in Los Angeles and of the impact a display of a stack of suitcases had on her.

During World War II, we as Americans took away the freedom of other Americans out of fear. What must that have been like to suddenly lose hard-won freedoms? Surely, something to ponder.

I have just sent off another letter to my young friend, Tim, who has been in jail awaiting trial now for nearly two years. His own parents had sought a kind of freedom here when they fled to the U.S. from Albania. What must they think of this now as their eldest child sits in limbo behind bars? Whether guilty or not, two years of insecurity and uncertainly seem excessive.


And this doesn’t even touch the freedom issues found in other parts of the world. What of those? Think Darfur, Iraq, Iran — all of the Middle East right now — parts of Africa…the list doesn’t end there. In many of these places the word “freedom” as we understand it doesn’t even truly exist as a concept.

Sure. We each have our own reality in which we operate. Beth’s comment was not at all out of place in the reality of that moment. Yet it is important, I think, to take time to remember just what we do and don’t have in terms of freedom. Sometimes we forget and we should never forget, lest we take freedoms for granted and risk losing them in doing so.

As I begin this beautiful, sunshine-filled day with a list a mile long and my heart full at the prospect of a coming trip to New York to visit family, I count blessings. I am free to make this trip. I am free to create my own life each and every day. I am free to move about, to laugh, to love. Yet I worry.

Fear has in recent history found cause to erode the firm hold we as individuals felt on our freedom. Only time will tell for certain if this will cost dearly or offer safety and protection. This same history reminds us we are fallible, we make mistakes, we can be unjust. We need to remain watchful, even as we enjoy.

Protection of freedoms for all is essential to our own freedom. I don’t want to ever have to ask to be free. Do you?

“Freedom’s just another word…for nothing left to lose.” Let’s not go there.

CHERRIL DOTY is an artist, writer, and creative coach exploring the many mysteries of life in the moment. She can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (949) 251-3883.