March 2011

Dear Friends

There is a sense of quickening, of a faster time now with events, disasters and climate changes occurring seemingly more rapidly. Certainly our awareness of such modified conditions is more acute than before and communication methods are more sophisticated. But could it be that we are in any way involved in these events? Do we have responsibility in them or do they “just” happen out of the blue? An interesting question indeed. It is a general self growth interrogation within us rather than a contemporary question about a certain occurrence in our collective life.

How far do we involve ourselves? How do we relate to nature? This is the core of the question. It is about us, of how we cope with our life and life in general in the given situation of our geography, our country, our area in the world. Nobody should be able to tell us how much to do, how much or how little to feel and where to step in or out. We can make our own mind up. That is our freedom. Let’s make use of it; it’s a wonderful and popular asset. We do not need a political party for it; we are quite familiar with its mechanism. Our ethical standard is the guideline, and so is our honesty. Most of the readers of this Letter live in a democracy and know “freedom” as a daily tool of life. But freedom can be found in the direst circumstances. “Even in chains I am free”, said a famous prisoner. So, freedom is something in our mind. We have a free mind. That is truly fascinating. Let us cherish it and not take it for granted. It is indeed very precious.

We understand that everyone should have the same amount of freedom as we do. Therefore, we must respect other people’s free ideas, whether we like them or not, whether we can relate to them or not. Do you see how quickly this statement could get tricky? We need to exercise caution not to judge when someone else’s idea of freedom doesn’t coincide with ours. We can feel attacked in our views and we quickly take things personal. That has to do with our emotional strength at the time, our inner sense of security.

It is a great idea to exercise our mental freedom every day and in any given situation. Let’s change our mind, it’s our freedom, let’s be free with it and allow others to do the same.

I have seen the film “Black Swan” a few weeks ago. It inspired in me many different thoughts on freedom, use of freedom, choice of freedom, liberation and what it all means. I found this film to be confronting and a challenge to the way of expressing ourselves in private, in thought, and in public. Needless to say: I loved the film.

As a STORY, I have chosen a true story of someone who made freedom his choice to live free:
A slave’s freedom choice

(Being a slave and gaining your freedom through education is quite a story to hear, and especially when you have been in the situation and known for a fact what the life of a slave meant. It is the case of the author of this story, Paul Laurence Dunbar, whose father had been a slave but escaped to the north).

The story talks about Josh, a man who was “owned” by a Mr. Leckler, and his “master” held high standards of him, and let this known to his wife on frequent occasions as well. Mr. Leckler often had his wife listen to him and afterward would ask her advice, but never took it though. One day he asked her a question that pertained to a principle about Josh, his slave. He had been letting him work a side job during his spare time for a man by the name of Mr. Eckley, who had lied about the amount of hours Josh had worked for him, thereby shorting Josh of his pay. Not only was Josh shorted, but Mr. Leckler too, for he made money off of the work Josh performed for other men. Mr. Eckley wasn’t shorting Josh enough to the point where it affected Mr. Leckler to act upon because he used to say that “the question of a dollar or two is nothing to me”.

However, Josh wanted to buy his freedom from Mr. Leckler and he knew that every penny Mr. Eckley shorted Josh of, meant he was one step shorter from buying his freedom. Mr. Leckler had been giving Josh one-tenth of what he made from his side job; the rest of course was pocketed by his “owner”. So, we know that the question of principle here is dishonesty, but this is not the question Mr. Leckler asked his wife. His question was “Well, if Josh knew how to read and write and do numbers . . .”Mr. Leckler, are you crazy!” said his wife. “If Josh knew these things he wouldn’t be cheated when he worked away from me. But teaching a slave . . .”

“Fearing that black literacy would prove a threat to the slave system – which relied on slaves’ dependence on masters – whites in many colonies instituted laws forbidding slaves to learn to read or write and making it a crime for others to teach them.”

Mr. Leckler decided that he would secretly educate Josh, so he could look after himself. “Of course, Mr. Leckler knew that when the black man learned his numbers, things would change. But it would be years before Josh could earn $2,000, the price Mr. Leckler asked for Josh’s freedom.”

What the slave master didn’t realize, was that on one of Josh’s travels to his side jobs, a “slave” that was free, had taught Josh a few lessons. Therefore, Josh knew the initial stages of reading. After an year, Mr. Leckler decided that Josh had had enough education. Mr. Eckley was now adding on to his home, and hired Josh to see to all the plastering. Of course, after Josh completed the job he assumed, Mr. Eckley was cheating him out of pay once more; he was right. Josh pointed this out to an astonished Mr. Eckley who paid him what he owed!

“It is easy enough for the master to order the body of a slave, this far you may go, and no further.” The master has laws and chains to hold the slave back. But what master can say to the mind of a slave, “I order you to stop learning”? Josh had begun to eat the forbidden fruit of learning, and he was hungry for more. Night after night he sat by his lonely fire and read one of his few books.

All this time, the white hills of the Yankee north seemed to call to Josh. The north wind told him that in the North he would be a slave no longer. Josh knew it would be hard to win his freedom. Worst of all was the law. It stood like a stone wall between slavery and freedom, between slavery and Josh’s hopes. Then one day, when he was working away from home, a voice called to him from the woods, “Be brave!” And later that night the voice called to him like the north wind, “Follow.”

“One night Mr. Leckler commented to his wife that Josh should have been home that night. Josh did not show that night nor the next. Mr. Leckler took a train that second night of Josh missing to where he had been working. Josh had left though the night and he was expected to return to his “owner”. Mr. Leckler realized that Josh had run away.” He pursued after him with the dogs. The trail they followed led them to a train station. “Mr. Leckler asked the stationmaster if he had seen a black get on the train. “Yes,” the man said, “two nights ago.” “But why did you let him go without a pass?” cried Mr. Leckler in anger. “I didn’t,” said the stationmaster. “He had a written pass signed ‘James Leckler.’ “

No, no one can stop you from thinking, even if you are in the worst of prisons! May we all use the freedom we have today and make the most of it!

As a photo, have a look at this one:

nl33

In love and light and free choice
Mariana