“I desire your freedom,” the old professor told me.
“My freedom?” I asked, leaning in.
“Yes. I want you to be free from all forms of tyranny and oppression. Inward and outward, from the past or in the present.”
“Thank you,” I replied, unsure what to say.
“I don’t think you fully understand what I am saying to you right now,” the professor said. “I desire your freedom more than you yourself desire your freedom. I desire your freedom more than most of what’s in you desires your freedom.”
“I desire your freedom from oppression by those with more power than you. The government. The police. The wealthy. I want you to be free from any powerful forces who would inhibit or constrain your own will for your own life.
“I want you to be free from all transgressions against your personal sovereignty in any way. From family members. From friends and acquaintances. From employers and coworkers. From romantic partners. I desire your self-sovereignty over your will for your own life, in every possible way.
“Moreover, I want you to be free from all psychological manipulation which subverts your authentic will for your life. I want your mind to be free of manipulative parasites in your personal life who trick you into enacting their will instead of yours. I want your mind to be free from the toxic manipulations of advertisers who trick you into thinking you are inadequate and incomplete to try and squeeze a few bucks out of you. I want your mind to be free from the manipulations of propagandists in politics and news media who pull the wool over your eyes about what’s really going on in your society, in your nation and in your world.
“Your true will for your life cannot express as long as you are being successfully manipulated into enacting someone else’s will, whether that be an abusive partner or an abusive government. You cannot enact your own will for your life if you don’t know what your will is, and as long as manipulation holds sway over you it is impossible to clearly see your own will. You therefore cannot be fully self-sovereign as long as this is happening. You are not free until you are fully free of manipulation.
“For this reason, I also want you to be free from any forms of manipulation which have made their way into your mind through culture. I want your mind to be free from the religions which were concocted in ancient times to keep the peasants passive and obedient, rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and glorifying poverty and meekness. I want your mind to be free from the power-worshipping attitudes which have been passed on from generation to generation, like reverence for police and military personnel, respect for politicians and government institutions, treasuring civility, and disdain for the underclass.
“For countless generations stretching back to the dawn of history the powerful have been shaping culture for their own benefit, and this is reflected in our values, language and customs even today, even for many of us who feel we have transcended such things. We show up in this world and are immediately indoctrinated with the will of not just parents, teachers, politicians and preachers, but also of long-dead lords and emperors who lived on the other side of the world. Our authentic will for ourselves lies buried beneath all that.
“This is what I want for you. Freedom to express your own will for your own life, but your real, authentic will. The will that has been buried beneath mountains of manipulation geared toward tricking you into manifesting other people’s will for your own life, funneled into your head since you were a baby. I want you to find your true, uncorrupted will, and I want you to manifest it in the world as you see fit.
“More than this, I desire your complete freedom from manipulation in all its forms, even your own conditioned impulse to manipulate. Growing up in a society that is steeped in manipulation conditions us to believe that that is the path to safety and security: manipulating others into doing certain things or being a certain way for us. Manipulating situations toward our advantage. Manipulating our own thoughts to weave pleasant mental stories for ourselves or to feel like we are in control.
“I desire your freedom. Your real freedom. From all forms of oppression, from all forms of manipulation, even your own. That is true sovereignty. I desire this for you. I desire this for everyone.”
“That’s… I think that must be the most loving thing anyone’s ever said to me,” I replied tearfully.
“It would heal all our world’s problems,” said the professor, leaning her head back on her pillow.
“You mean if everyone were truly free?”
“Wouldn’t take nearly everyone to get the snowball rolling,” she said. “It would only take some of us.”
“It just looks so hopeless!” I exclaimed, now fully sobbing. “The world is dying and everyone’s sleepwalking through it! It just feels so powerless and pointless and hopeless and worthless.”
“Only the living are dying,” the professor responded. “The dead are not dying, they’re gone. The fact that you say the world is dying shows you the world is still very much alive.”
I just bit my lip and stared at her, a complete blubbering mess.
“Look at me,” she said. “They tell me I’m dying, but I’ve never been more alive. The other day Ron referred to this as my deathbed, just in passing in the middle of one of those dark jokes of his. It surprised me, not because it was wrong of him to say — it’s a perfectly accurate label I suppose. Thing is, ever since I got back from the hospital I’d been thinking of it as my cradle. I feel like a newborn baby.”
“There’s something about this stage in life that clarifies so many things that eluded me up until I got here,” she continued, squeezing my hand reassuringly. “I look within myself and I see vast expanses of my being that I couldn’t even begin to describe if I had to. I see now that this experience, this human experience we all talk about in our little philosophy books — the work I gave my entire life to — the part that we can think about and talk about an analyze, is just a teeny tiny microfraction of what’s actually here. The rest is… ineffable. It’s a mystery. The parts of the human experience you can understand with your mind are just the tiniest tip of the iceberg. Not even that, really.
“We are giants, and we are mysteries. There are limitless abysses within all of us in which world-changing potentiality can be hiding. There is simply no way to know how this adventure ends, because we can only see and comprehend the smallest piece of what we’re made of. Just watch the ride unfold. I guarantee that whatever ends up happening, humanity will surprise you. I’m super jealous you get to see it happen!”
“I don’t know how to do it without you,” I sobbed.
“Yes you do. You do, and you will. There is so very, very much more to you than you realize.”
“I love you,” I sniffled. I had never said that to her before.
“Oh I love you too,” she said. “Now come give me a hug. The morphine’s kicking in and I’m about to turn into a fuzz-brained idiot. I won’t have you see me in such a state.”
I gave the professor a long, deep hug and whispered a treasured secret in her ear. I said goodbye to Ron and walked out their front door for the last time.
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