Jun 21, 2015

Freedom always comes at a cost

I have a habit of learning things and being done with them before becoming proficient. I learnt how to play the guitar about two and a half years ago, so that I could play in CF if it was needed. I learnt how to play in the keys of G and D, but couldn't do bar chords so I could never play Bm right, and always avoided the key of C. I tried my hand at fingerstyle for a while - tried Blackbird and Tears in Heaven, but never finished learning either song. I still make mistakes when I play: CF would know all too well. It's been so wonderful and useful being able to play the guitar, and it really helps me in worship. But I never went beyond the basics. I learnt just enough to get by, and gave up.

My brother, on the other hand, came back one day when he was 14 and started playing a refrain on the guitar over and over again. I was like, "wow, you can play now?" and he said "nope". But every day, for a few hours at a go, he would lie on his bed and practice. Every day. Soon he was able to play anything. Like, he was able to play Sungha Jung arrangements. He could figure out how to play something in fingerstyle just by listening to it. He started being able to play things that Theo was playing. Coming home every night to the tune of Rylynn - one of my favourite moments at home.

And that is guitar freedom.

Guitar freedom is being able to play whatever you want. But that comes with discipline and practice. I don't have guitar freedom. I can't play whatever I want. Same for financial freedom. If you don't have the discipline to save and carefully steward your money (I'm guilty of this too), you won't be financially free. You'll continue to be bound by money. This is also often true of me. I don't work as much as I should, and I highly prioritise meeting people, and meeting people often happens over food, and soon I'm bound by my lack of money again.

I love to teach English because it's so important for a person to be able to express exactly what they want or how they're feeling. Being able to express yourself makes you feel free. But learning a language comes with practice. I don't know how to tell my students that. The skill of expression that I have is not a miracle. Read, write, read, write, train yourself, unlock that treasure trove within you, and your world of expression will also be set free. You know, I love creative writing because it's the avenue that sets my inner world free. All these ideas in my head, these emotions I can't express, this beauty that comes out in garbles in speech - they become elegant on paper. Yet I haven't been training. I decided I didn't like creative writing classes because it felt too stifling, too controlled and sterile. I haven't written a good creative piece in a long, long, long time. The last good piece I wrote was before Yale-NUS started, I think. And I see that I'm beginning to lose it, and I'm beginning to panic, because it's my one avenue, my refuge, my old friend, and it's slipping through my fingers because I failed to practice and keep and train my skill. And if I'm no longer able to effectively express ideas creatively in words, then I am no longer fully free to express myself. The colourful mess in my head will always only remain a colourful mess; the piece I produce will never ease the ache; I will lose my ability to write, and hence, my freedom.

Freedom comes at a cost. For things like music and money and sports, that cost is discipline. The freedom to walk around safely at night is something many Singaporeans experience; that comes with the cost of tight law enforcement. If evil weapon-wielders practised their freedom to hurt people on the streets, we wouldn't have the freedom to walk around safely at night. The freedom of peace comes at the cost of self-restraint on everyone's part. People say that love brings freedom. When you and your significant other are in love, you free up each other's souls. You are free to be yourselves, and in each other you find your own true self. Yet a relationship comes with commitment, and commitment means sticking to a decision you've made even when you don't feel like it. True love doesn't mean it's always easy; it just means it's the most rewarding. Love requires sacrifice, but that sacrifice is worth it.

Our desires, our wants, are endless. But in order to have freedom in a community, we need to decide what happens when our desires touch on another's territory. If I were the only person around for miles and miles, I could want all that land and have it; I'd also be very lonely and sad. Thankfully, there are many other people within that land area where I come from. However, in order for my community to have freedom, I can't have all the land. We all have to give and take.

Why should the freedom for speech be brandished about like it's the only one that doesn't come with a cost?

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