Border crossing, Nepal
For some time I had been wrestling with the idea of harmony, too; the challenge of balancing the trade-offs between security and freedom. At what point did security become a prison and freedom chaos? I remembered a philosophy course I’d taken in college and a section on the philosopher, Emanuel Kant. I recalled Kant’s idea of negative and positive liberty or Freedom From and Freedom To. As I recalled, Kant’s theory applied to big social structures such as religion and government, but I was beginning to see a different take on the idea. Freedom From, I reasoned, would be the more basic of the two. Examples that came to mind were freedom from hunger, freedom from confinement, freedom from disease, freedom from… well, you get the idea. Freedom From, it seemed was really just another way to think about security. Freedom To would be more liberating and complex and elusive: freedom to love, freedom to dream, freedom to seek the unknowable. The second kind of freedom, I reasoned, could be had only after the first was achieved, at least to some degree. After all, it wouldn’t be possible to travel the world if I were locked in a cage. Though they conflicted, Freedom From and Freedom To were somehow related. I had come to suspect that security and freedom weren’t opposing forces at all. Maybe they were just the extreme ends of the same continuum.
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Life on the road had made me more flexible and adaptable and less judgmental, and that made me free-er. Sure, I still had to get up in the morning and do the things one does every day to sustain body and soul. But I was less a slave to the hands of the clock and more in touch with my natural rhythms. I ate when I was hungry not when mealtime rolled around. I rested when I was tired not when the five o’clock whistle blew. There was no one to tell me where to be or when to be there. There was no job to go to, no monthly bills to pay, no lawn to mow. I was a stranger in a strange land, and with no image to live up to, I could be whomever I chose to be.
I had achieved a measure of freedom I’d never known. The downside was that I sometimes felt adrift and purposeless and vulnerable. I was on my own with no one to guide or advise me. I had no home other than my tent and no protection other than my own cunning. When I got sick or depressed or things went wrong I couldn’t turn to a friend or family member for help.
I had traded the Freedom From of my domestic life for the Freedom To of the road. But the question now was; Had I gone too far? I had no answers only more questions, but as I pedaled through the jungle toward Nepal, I had the sense that I was moving in the right direction.