The Freedom Conundrum

“The Freedom Conundrum…” Sounds like it could be the title of an exciting thriller, doesn’t it? (Must add it to my list of ideas!) It’s the first Friday of the month—and Independence Day, to boot! What better day for A Drift of Quills to talk about what freedom means to us individually and how the topic figures (or not!) in our novels? It’s not all about baseball and apple pie, though. Joining us today is guest poster, author Raymond Bolton. Please give him a warm welcome!

Author of Awakening: The Ydron Saga Vol. 1
Raymond’s Website

Freedom is a difficult concept to wrap one’s mind around. It doesn’t refer to things one is permitted to do. The possibility that permission can be revoked implies constraint, and constraint implies license. One who is licensed is on a tether and tethers can be yanked, or tied to something. On the other hand, lack of all constraints whatsoever leaves open the possibility of trampling on the rights or freedom of others, and such acts lead to consequences. Consequences, of course, are tethers. So are laws. And since we live within a society, and society is governed by laws, it begs the question how can anyone be truly free?

I think Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn began to approach the essence of it when he stated, “Someone that you have deprived of everything is no longer in your power. He is once again entirely free.” True freedom, then, is somehow tied to desire or ambition, because ambitions and desires are also constraints. In fact, all of the major philosophies and religions teach us to shun all things worldly, for isn’t the attainment of paradise—however you perceive it—the ability to walk forward into the world without constraint and without fear? In fact, fear is the ultimate constraint. It is that which prevents us from acting. It stems from desires and is that which binds us most.

In my debut novel, Awakening, Prince Regilius awakens to a nightmare. His head is filled with visions of murder and carnage and attempts are made upon his life. As the world he thought he knew unravels before his eyes, he learns what is happening is not accidental. These visions are the result of blossoming talents. He has been engineered by an alien race to combat the Dalthin, a predatory alien species that enslaves worlds telepathically, and as his mind begins to open, he finds himself exposed to the predators.

Furthermore, by himself he is powerless to avert the impending holocaust. He has only been designed to perceive the Dalthins’ presence, not engage them. In order to avert the threat, he must unite his people. It is then, when his mother murders his father, that the land descends into chaos and his task may prove impossible. Faced with slaying the one who gave him life in order to protect his world, Regilius seeks a better way. Eventually, it is only by freeing himself of both his fears and his ambitions, that he will stand any chance at all of succeeding.

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Author of As the Crow Flies and two short stories

My website (You can use this link or the menu at the top—whatever sizzles your steak!)

Freedom…  As tough to grab onto as a cloud, but weighty as the earth itself. As Raymond pointed out, it’s a difficult concept to pin down.

“To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” (Nelson Mandela)

Right away we see that freedom does not, cannot, exist by itself. With it comes responsibility. While an individual is free to make his or her own choices—that freedom is ours inherently—those choices birth results. Consequences. Amazingly, we have the freedom of reaction, no matter what the situation.

“Freedom is what we do with what is done to us.” (Jean-Paul Sartre)

In my book, As the Crow Flies, the fiercely independent Crow has his physical freedom taken away, and when it is restored, it is conditional. His world, as he sees it, is set off its course. He is determined to right it. He wants to fly again, unfettered, unrestrained.

However, the task is not something he can do on his own, (much to his dismay). Those who accompany Crow on his journey suffer their own lack of liberty in one form or another—the consequences of choices made by others. In seeking his freedom, Crow learns that the path is not linear. The precious freedom he treasures is far less tangible than he imagined, and costs in ways he never expected—ways that few of us take the time to consider and appreciate.

I am grateful for this time I have to reflect on the sacrifices that have been made on my account, whether by statesmen and soldiers, my parents, or my friends. Grateful, too, for the reminder to take stock of the ways in which I preserve the freedoms I’ve been given and respect those of other people. 

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Author of the short story, Sanguis Dei and a poetry collection, Light and Dark
Kristie’s Blog 

I love the 4th of July. Not just because of the BBQs or the fireworks. In fact, my dog hates the fireworks, and runs to me for comfort. Her fear is a reasonable thing and though she doesn’t understand, she points to one of the reasons we send those rockets skyward. The colorful explosions inspire us and are a visceral reminder of the noise and smoke of battle. We oooh and ahhh, but the cannon-loud “duds” that made me cover my ears as a child, while designed to be beautiful, also make me soberly recall those who have gone before.

Thankfully, because of men like my father and uncles and my oldest brother (and probably yours, too) most of us will never know these fears up close. The honorable men who journey to foreign soil to hold tyranny at bay go to protect their families and their homes and something we can’t see or touch. I don’t know what it was like for them to be under the guns, on the shores, in the trenches though I have heard tales both frightening and humorous. My keenest imaginings are merely a shadow of what occurred there. How then can I be so touched, so moved by celebrations across the nation? The practical application of the sacrifice of these good men is that I am free. Free to write, to speak and to dream up whatever mayhem I can conjure. What they put on the line for freedom, their very lives, I see as the ultimate expression of love.

“No greater love has any man than this–that he will lay down his life for his friends.” Sounds like sacrifice, but that is precisely the point. It is the deepest sort of freedom to let go of fear and do what is right because it is right. This truth shapes my life. It intricately shapes the characters I create. My heroes fight to preserve freedom and they struggle against oppression. They do it because I have seen it in action. We are in this world together and we must stand up for those that are not strong enough to do so for themselves. That is the hero’s call. 

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Author of Oathtaker

Patricia’s website

As today is July 4, it is appropriate to give thought to the concept of freedom. What is it? What does it mean to me? How does it play into my fantasy novel, Oathtaker? defines freedom in several ways including “exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.” and “the power to determine action without restraint.”  

Often you will hear children say that they want to be grown-up so that they may do as they please. It seems a common misnomer—that adults get to do what they want. The truth, I think, is that parents restrain their children so that their children will learn what it is like to live within certain restraints when they are adults. We all are subject to external controls—on a constant basis, from the speed at which we may drive, to—well, you get the picture. But outside of those restraints, which we as a society have determined are appropriate through those who govern us (whether or not we like who won the vote), we do have the power to determine our actions. What we all too often forget is that on the other side of our freedom is our responsibility not to impinge upon the freedom of others. 

The history of the world is a story of people seeking to be, fighting to be, free. Each person, every age of a nation or people, plays the battle out anew on the world’s stage. Oddly enough, however, even as we try to live free of the restraints of others, we all too often try to restrain others. We do not want our parents to tell us what to do, but we might well like to steer our parents toward doing what we would like for them to do. Replace the word “parents” there with spouse, children, friends, employer, neighbors, government, and you will see what I mean. Now consider what is the cost of your freedom on others. In short, if you act in a manner that causes an expense to another (over which they have no control), then you are infringing upon their freedom.

The idea of “freedom” and the struggle to attain it is a key theme in Oathtaker. The story tells of a special sect of people, the Select, who have carried the words and ways regarding the value of life and freedom down through the ages and to all corners of the earth. The Oathtakers help to protect the Select because, as you might expect, there are those who seek to destroy them. As in real life, those who seek to destroy the Select do not do so because they want freedom for themselves. Rather, they act against the Select because they want to be in control—they do not want freedom for others

So, on this July 4, as I think on my gratitude for those who fought for the freedom of this nation and her people (my father, my son, and so many others), I will ponder on what freedom is and means to me. I will be introspective. I will ask myself what, if anything, I do that results in a cost to others over which they have no control. Just as I should be free, so too should my family members, friends, neighbors, and so on. Indeed, if we all gave a little more thought to the cost others pay for us, I daresay we would all be freer.

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What does freedom mean to you?

What is your most important freedom?

Within the fantasy genre, what book and character(s) first comes to mind when you think of “freedom”?

3 thoughts on “The Freedom Conundrum

  1. Marvelous, thoughtful entry for an important day- thanks to all of you.
    My take on freedom is more practical, speaking as a chronicler. I published my first tales ever on July 4th 2011 and today marks the first publication of a new tale, Games of Chance, which is the tale that really starts things happening in my world, the Lands of Hope.
    For me,writing is about shedding chains.
    I have always seen these heroic characters,known of their deeds, and only held off for so long because I was convinced I could never be equal to the task of "writing" about them. Turns out that wasn't necessary. Once I finally started to think like a witness, I could set down the stories. And I used July 4th to commemorate not only such epic moments in their lives, but to also achieve a little more "freedom" for myself- now that the tale is coming out, I can settle back a bit. Perhaps now they'll give me a breather!

  2. What a wonderful way to remember and celebrate your own achievements! And—writing really is freeing, isn't it? Such a wonderful way to express ourselves and to create. I hope your release day was everything you hoped it would be, and that we see a lot more of you in the future!

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