Thought Box

Flight To Freedom

Flight To Freedom

by Christophe Porot January 24 2022, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 24 secs

In his first letter to readers, Philosophy Coach, Consultant at Universal Enlightenment & Flourishing, Christophe Porot explains how anxiety is most often a consequence of the freedom you experience. 

As this may be the first column you read from me, I wanted to begin our shared journey by exploring how beautiful, even spiritual, the relationship between author and reader can be.

Marcel Proust, referred to sometimes as the French Shakespeare, articulated why writers and readers are engaged in a pure and wonderful form of conversation. According to him, writing purifies an author's best thoughts and crystallizes those moments of thinking when the composer of thoughts was truly inspired. As Proust noted further, the conversation between author and reader is pure because neither the reader nor author is distracted by the kinds of worries that occupy our minds in regular discussions. When in person we ask how we sound, whether we are sweating too much, and a host of other insecurities that plague the exchange. The written conversation can be so enchanting that it makes regular conversations seem disappointing.

When James Joyce, author of Odysseus, met Marcel Proust in person he was sad to find out that throughout their shared dinner Proust was merely a man making small talk, not a perpetual fountain of insight. It is in reading a person that you can get to see what they are capable of and it is through reading them that I believe the divine within is disclosed. While prayer is a formalized dialogue with the divine, writing can be a form of prayer if you set your intent to communicating truth. So please consider this opening column both a letter and a prayer that escaped through my hands and into the paper.

The first thing I want to share is a brief meditation that invites you to reconsider the experience of anxiety and its role in your life. Anxiety is real and often requires professional help, but it may be more than just a malfunctioning of our soul. As the Philosopher Gordon Marino explains in his book “The Existentialist Survival Guide” anxiety has received a horrible reputation over the years. It is treated as a condition that requires immediate attention, often by way of consuming pills rather than philosophically analyzing what is happening to us when that uncomfortable sensation overcomes us.

The founder of existentialism, Soren Kierkegaard, believed that anxiety was “the dizziness of freedom.” It is precisely this link between anxiety and freedom, and then later anxiety and our authentic selves that allows us to reimagine this chronically despised emotion as possibly a sensation, which reveals the depths of who we are rather than revealing a weakness within us.

According to the existential tradition, epitomized by Kierkegaard and Sartre, anxiety literally comes to us because we are free. Sartre believed that when you stand on a cliff and feel the knots in your stomach that the sensation itself is not a product of believing you might fall. Instead, it is a consequence of the fact that you know you are free to jump. With so many possible decisions to make in our life, we feel anxiety about making the wrong decisions. We may feel anxiety about parting ways with ourselves due to a string of decisions that alienate us from our authentic self. But what is our authentic self?

Our authentic self is who we are naturally. The great philosopher and revolutionary Jean Jacque Rousseau was asked whether man had become more or less free due to culture and civilization. His answer shocked the world: according to him, we had become less free. Why? Because the socialization process imposed on us the idea that it matters more how we appear through the eyes of those around us than how we are in our own eyes. In other words, we became more concerned with outward appearances than our inner lives.

The modern version of this is most profoundly transparent in a series of pressures that dictate our sense of what matters in life. While the story of romantic love is well discussed, the stories of self love and love from the world are equally important. We often believe that love from the world requires immense success on our part, and that self-love is not merited unless we acquire that love from the world. But the reality is that when you succeed others are liable to get jealous and create distance, or false kindness, towards you. So what are you really aiming for and how did you get so dislocated from real sources of love and freedom?

Perhaps anxiety is our authentic selves beckoning us to come back. Perhaps we are aware that we’ve lost our way through social pressures and it's time to resume a more free life.

So I’ll leave you with a simple question: are you ready to break the chains of society and finally understand what your anxiety has been trying to teach you? If you are, consider accepting yourself without needing to be accepted by others and then consider that the taste of freedom is not always sweet because, sometimes, it's “dizzying.”

Yours in radical freedom, Christophe Porot  

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