“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.” — Bob Marley
I’m listening to “Redemption Song,” this morning and that line just hit me like a ton of bricks. He doesn’t say something benign like self-doubt. He even takes it up a notch from Steven Pressfield’s “Resistance.”
How often do you feel as if your thoughts are not your own? I’m guessing all the time. See, it’s not so easy to free your mind because you’ve genuinely been conditioned not to.
If you know even the slightest about me you know that I’m a huge believer that almost everything in society serves the purpose of making you mentally weak, dependent, helpless, and powerless to change. And it seems like society is doing a pretty good job.
I mean, be really honest with yourself here. How free do you feel? Do you go about your day doing what you want to do or what you think you have to do? Are you the type of person who marches to the beat of their own drummer or dances to puppet strings?
Only you know the answer. But if you are someone who feels trapped, enslaved, and inside of a mental prison that doesn’t let you live the life you want, only you can free yourself.
I bounce back and forth on this constantly. I want to be accepting that some people just don’t have big dreams. They’re fine doing the gig they’re doing. They’re content. I don’t need to push these people to be bold, daring, and great, because they don’t want to be. Fine.
But this line about mental slavery got me thinking.
What if many people in society are experiencing some sort of Stockholm syndrome? Stockholm syndrome means you start to identify with your captor.
There have even been people who kidnap children and let them roam free throughout the day because the kids will actually just come back home.
Often, when people talk about slavery in America, they’ll bring up the fact that the slaves outnumbered the masters and plantation workers. Why didn’t they just revolt? Well, a great many did. But, the ones who didn’t were conditioned to stay. They began to identify and accept being slaves.
This isn’t a negative judgment on them at all. Conditioning, brainwashing, mind-f***ing — these things are very powerful. If they weren’t there’d be no Jim Jones or Scientology. Am I being a little bit hyperbolic and dramatic when I suggest many people are society’s captives? Maybe. But maybe I’m right.
Again, this all boils down to you. Think about your choices, beliefs, and decisions. Are they yours? Or society’s? You can live in accordance with society’s wishes and be free. You can also be a slave to society’s wishes.
How do you know which sentence describes you? Ask yourself if you’d do any of the following…if a bunch of other people didn’t also do them:
Again, only you know the answer. If anything, my writing serves the purpose of getting you to question what you think you know, your beliefs, your scripts & narratives. Until you’ve done that, you’re not free.
Lately, the idea of being a “free thinker,” has started to push its way to the front of the line in the zeitgeist.
You have the free speech fighters, the controversial “Intellectual Dark Web,”, and also a large group of people who genuinely seem to want to censor everything they disagree with.
Who’s right? What does it mean to be a free thinker?
It’s often best to use addition by subtraction to get to the truth. Let’s start by figuring out what definitely doesn’t make you a free thinker:
So what’s left. What’s the real answer? How do you learn to think freely?
Ready for my answer?
By definition, I can’t tell you how to be a free thinker. I don’t even know you. All of your beliefs are context-dependent. We all have different backgrounds, cultures, and little societal scripts that were forced on us. If anything, I’d start by not blindly accepting them.
What happens next is up to you. Maybe you should just keep your corporate job. Or you should definitely become an entrepreneur. Maybe self-help writers are scammers. Or maybe you’re lazy and need to do better. Perhaps your government overlords do love you. Maybe you should move to Tibet and live in a cave, meditating for ten hours a day. Perhaps you should be materialistic, hedonist, and enjoy a life of pleasure cuz…YOLO. Maybe become a minimalist. Get married. Become polyamorous.
How the hell should I know?
My writing process is as such:
Here’s what I do feel confident in saying. For the love of [insert deity or lack therof here], this is your life we’re talking about. I do think you owe yourself the chance to figure out what you really want, free from society’s opinions. Free from other people’s opinions. Hell, free from mine.
What happens when you do this? I’ll tell you.
Am I some purely free thinker? No.
It’s impossible to have a belief system that isn’t derived from pre-established narratives. I do feel, however, that I’ve at least consciously attempted to choose which narratives I want to believe and which ones I don’t. Also, I reserve the right to change my opinion. And I do, constantly.
I used to be a hardcore libertarian. But then I became more compassionate and fine with social safety nets. I don’t care too much about materials, but I like watches, shoes, and artwork. When I write, I try not to pander. But of course, I care what people think of me. Of course, I want them to like my writing. I simultaneously accept people’s life choices but also suspect they make the wrong ones.
How did I get here? I read a bunch of books on different topics. The number of them isn’t important, simply the act. I genuinely grit my teeth and try to understand the other side of arguments. I observe people and parse out what beliefs seem to be useful and harmful in a general sense. I generalize quite a bit. I don’t nitpick and point out tiny exceptions to generally true concepts because I’m not annoying. As a student of human nature, I’ve come to believe that it hasn’t changed all that much. I’m curious. I wake up excited to learn something new. I share my knowledge.
Naval Ravikant has a good thought about beliefs. He said he essentially came to the idea that he couldn’t know how to organize society because you could only find the true answer by running a controlled experiment of parallel realities. I like that answer.
Instead of trying to fix society, I first try to fix myself. Next, I share with those close to me. After that, I share with you — the people who want to hear the message I have to give. Then, I live and let live.
Why? Because nobody knows how you run your life better than you do. As his royal awesomeness, Bob, said at the beginning, “None but ourselves can free our minds.”
This isn’t a treatise about collectivism and individualism.
It’s a call to action for you.
What are you going to do?
I think about people like Bob Marley quite a bit. I’ve watched documentaries about him. He knew he was chosen. He chose to be free and had a real sense of certainty that he could architect his life exactly the way he wanted to.
How do people not only break free but feel they can actually pull it off?
I think it comes down to this ethos:
Why not me?
Whenever I bump into a societal script I want to break free from, I often just have a conversation with myself:
Why can’t you become an awesome writer, travel the world to speak, speak freely 100 percent of the time, spend your days doing whatever the hell you want, make an impact, transform into a comet of creativity blazing through the consciousness of many, aim for heaven on earth, not to actually get it, but to try?
I don’t know about you…but that’s what I’m doing.
I have nothing to lose. Carpe diem my friends.
Why not you?
Why not be free?