Freedom Starts from the Inside Out

Sometimes in this world of rapidly moving pictures and videos and status updates, I believe I have nothing to say.

It seems as though it’s all been blurted already, that there are already so many monologues in the room, each expounding just a little louder, escalating the hubbub to a new crescendo with each passing pixel.

But occasionally, some tiny blip in all that noise sears sensation directly into my cells, my nerves catching fire with intensity.

When sensation snowballs to intensity, it means this thing matters. These are the messages I have for the world, the things that it’s important for me to say, that aren’t just noise but actual meaning.

And the other day, as I casually scrolled through my Facebook feed, a video sparked this intensity.

The clip started automatically, silently depicting a man and a woman walking into a room and posing with a sleeping lion.

Only the lion wasn’t sleeping; it was sedated. Drugged. Roofied.

Once the tourists took their places, a handler prodded the lion’s face with a stick, aiming his head at the photographer. Two of the creatures in the tableau smiled toothy grins. The lion was not one of them.

Sickening. My heart took on water, sinking between the lobes of my lungs, settling its bloody weight in the depths of my bowels.

Somewhere in the world, people are drugging lions so they can have souvenir selfies.

And while this is disturbing for the lion, it’s a much bigger problem than that. Because it illustrates ever so clearly how we treat other things.

Or, not things, precisely. Other living, breathing organisms.

Anything that we deem separate from ourselves.

Can you see how this theme reveals itself in our lives, in our news? How refugees refused entrance to a country are seen as the animal, something wild to be feared and controlled? A rogue element.

How racially motivated police violence so clearly depicts our perception of an us and a them.

And how our criminal justice system seems to think the drugging and violation of a woman’s body is worthy only of a slap on the wrist and a few stern words (and how this is happening so much more prevalently than is acknowledged, to friends and family and people you know, even if you don’t know about this).

Or, more personally, how this reflects our domineering approach to body taming – forced exercise, strict dietary regimens, deprivation, punishment and pain.

Because that which is the “other” is not quite human. It may be sentient, but who can be sure? And it certainly doesn’t mind being played on the hand of a puppeteer.

Right?

The fact of the matter is, there will always be others. People not like us. God, I hope there will be. Can you imagine a world in which we all look identical, in which we all have the same favorite color?

We have to make peace with the fact that there will always be those whose opinions, lifestyles and beliefs differ from ours.

But if we can’t even treat an innocent lion with dignity and respect, how can we ever dream of reaching that utopia with each other? Or with ourselves?

We are not kind to ourselves. We self flagellate for eating one too many spoons of ice cream. We bemoan our lack of character for not having a fancier title and more lucrative career at this point in our lives. We doubt – ever present, paralytic doubt – our qualifications as parents.

What if you treated your body less like they did the lion in the video and more like you wish he had been?

What if instead of sedating yourself with excessive work and stress and combos of uppers and downers (because let’s not kid ourselves, that’s exactly what the oscillating intake of sugar and caffeine is), you were kind to your body? Believed it was your friend?

What if instead of locking it up, you let it out of prison?

Let it move, shimmy and shake, and live free?

I know it sounds trite, all starry eyed and optimistic, but I truly believe that if we could all embrace our own inner magic, be fully present, happy and confident inside our own skin, that we would treat one another with so much more kindness.

No more honking at someone making a slow left turn. Or screaming, tomato-faced, at the guy who scraped your bumper.

Or drugging women, beating college students or other violent acts. Maybe, just maybe (dare I hope?), it would eventually lead to the end of war.

Idealistic? Yes. But big movements start small. In your body and in the world, too.

So, I invite you to try it, just for a day. Let your body move untamed. Let your arms reach, your shoulders shimmy, your hips sway.

Let your lungs be filled with breath, your viscera nourished with the nutrients they crave.

Do something today that makes you feel damn good. And I don’t mean what the magazines tell you should make you feel good. I mean what actually does.

If that means rolling around in the dirt, go do it. Dancing in the rain? I’ll get my galoshes.

Let today be the day that you do the wild thing that’s inside you, speak the unspoken debris barricading words in your larynx. Lift your chin to the sun and dig your toes in the earth.

Let your body express. Let it be what it is. Don’t try to make it something it’s not. Let it be free. Like the lion should be. He can’t, so you do it for him.

And maybe, just maybe, that one, small act of freedom will move the world in a more compassionate direction.

One can only hope.