The first tune that pops into my head when I think of this title is the song from Bob Marley. He sang about the mentality that enslaved us to our captors or colonialist masters, but the emancipation I am reminded of this morning is of a different kind. Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to engage with people that struggled to break the bonds of a childhood that left them with more emptiness, than it filled them with dreams. What should have been the nurturing of young souls often turns into the imposition of burdens from old souls instead. The reason it was a good fortune to engage with such troubled souls is because many of their struggles resonated with my own.
Sometimes in finding common ground, some draw on the common toxins that are shared in such a setting to emphasise the need to hold on to their own toxins that they collected through the years. Those trinkets of grief and betrayal convinces us that our worth is limited and defined by the sum total of how our nurturers treated us at times when we were supposed to be innocently adorable. I think at some deep subconscious level, the betrayals experienced during such innocent years convinces many that if they were not worth loving or embracing in that pure state, it cannot be possible to find the love or embrace that they need now that they’ve grown into a contaminated state. Unfortunately this internalised self-loathing is rarely visible to the conscious mind. Years of self-doubt erodes any sense of purpose, and purpose morphs into a desire to protect from a perceived threat that was rendered impotent the moment we achieved a state of material independence. It is one of those rare occasions when materialistic goals are critical to our survival.
Independence in our material state affords us the opportunity to break the stranglehold that unfulfilled adults had over us up to that point. Sadly though, many that achieve this state of independence would rather use those hard earned tools to exact revenge or demand remorse rather than to break the cycle and invest in a future that kills off the demons of the past. When we desire emancipation from such a dreary beginning, despite our misguided efforts to feed that cycle by convincing ourselves that making them pay is a pursuit of justice, we invite forces into our lives that will cause us to question the value of seeking such justice.
Assuming that the trials imposed on us during our innocent years were deliberate or conscious efforts by those troubled caregivers is an indulgence of our ego and nothing more. Everyone is fighting for significance, which means that everyone desires a space within which they are appreciated and understood. The fact that we lose faith in humanity to provide us with what we need is why we end up demanding such significance in selfishly destructive ways. Those troubled caregivers were no different. Without realising it, they eroded the faith of the innocents in their care through their selfishly destructive ways of demanding significance from those innocents. And that is how they fed the very same cycle that we all spurn.
Sometimes, our efforts in breaking those chains that weigh us down bears down on us to near breaking point. Incessant demands from those around us for us to be better than who we thought we were eventually breaks our resolve because our deeply held belief that we’re incapable of more because we deserve less erodes the foothold of courage that brought us to that point. I often wonder how many fail to achieve their goals because when they reached the final stretch, they saw it as the beginning of yet another struggle, rather than the end of the struggle that they set out to overcome. More dreams have been abandoned in giving up in that final stretch that demands the most of us because instead of realising that it is the culmination of a grueling effort that now demands that we finally break ties with what was holding us back, we see it as a demand to let go of what little comfort we have, and instead we recede in favour of familiarity, rather than push ahead into a new reality.
It is like navigating our way through the maze of life and finally approaching the exit, but instead of heading towards the light, we find the light threatening and instead we turn back to take comfort in the darkness because that is what our eyes have grown accustomed to. Wandering through the maze becomes a life long statement of the struggle of a life less lived, because in that maze there is no shortage of companions that view such valiant efforts to prevail in the darkness as being acts of courage and strength of the human spirit. Contending with self-imposed burdens that resonate with equally troubled souls offers more comfort and inclusion than pursuing a life of purpose that sets us apart from the crowd.
Everyone wants to be celebrated, and revered, but only a few are willing to exit that maze and embrace a new enlightened reality. It is for this reason that the bulk of human effort is spent in mastering the game rules that others have defined, rather than forging our own new path through this world. Emancipation comes when we see ourselves for who we are, and not for how others have defined us to be. It arrives without pomp and splendour, or festive celebrations. It arrives quietly in moments when we seek it, but expect it to appear in a form that we desire it to be. Emancipation is that flicker of hope that we choose to grasp when stepping back is easier. It is that light that threatens to kill the being that we fought to protect all our lives, while demanding that we embrace vulnerability with the promise of growth and inspiration.
Emancipation is achieved when we see more value in what we desire than the value that the familiarity of the past offers instead. Courage is therefore the sibling of cowardliness, because both appear to be valiant efforts of a brave soul, but the former is an obstinate challenge to complacency, while the latter embellishes fear with loud statements of rebellion.