In the United States today is Martin Luther King day. This man, through the work of millions of other people, has come to symbolize human rights and a desire to end slavery’s legacy in all forms. He understood, as do others, that slavery still exists in different forms even now. It exists as institutions, it exists in economic forms, and exists in the minds of people. This last part is rarely mentioned.
So what is slavery?
To expand the idea of what slavery is to include both the world and internal states, I would redefine it as the following:
Slavery is the state of living with no perceivable choices.
You can see how this relates to the common definition of being bound in servitude to another. In such a state, there is no perceivable choice to disobey; punishment is too great and death can be meted out on a whim.
I like looking at slavery in terms of choice, because it shows how much of how we live our lives is enmeshed in a world view without it:
- Much of the employment in the world is where pay is low, there is little respect, and there is little option for quitting because of economic consequences. This is known as “wage slavery”.
- In society, depending on your social circle, there are certain assumptions that are not questioned without severe consequence. Noam Chomsky wrote about this occurring in the media. We’re trained to follow thought patterns by rote, automatically and without conscious choice. This could be known as “thought slavery”.
- In most relationships, each partner soon learns roles to play, topics to avoid, habitual behavior, and ways to avoid triggering pain in the other in order to keep the relationship stable. This is done without awareness or conscious choice, so could be called “relationship slavery”. It does not matter who looks like they have the upper hand in the relationship – if there is no perceived choice, it is still slavery.
- Internally, when we react to fears, we usually feel there are no choices. I may have a fear of missing out on life and losing control of the time in my life, and so I think I have to jump at things in order to both not miss out and not feel the fear. It is done automatically, without conscious choice. This is what fear does. This could be called “slavery of fear”.
In the last post on enlightenment, I described enlightenment as simply living in the perception of Who You Are. You could also look at enlightenment as freedom, a state of being conscious of every little choice you have in every moment.
Life is choice. We are here to learn to choose with awareness. This is power.
Even in the self-improvement circles, we’re encourage to think we have problems, and thus cultivate the need to improve ourselves. It’s a need, not a desire. So if we look anew at the word of “need”, it implies there is no choice. The desire for balance turns into another form of slavery.
The term “workshop junkies” can apply to this. When you see something lacking in yourself, perhaps from feeling drained or from believing hype, you do not see a choice – you try to fill the lack. This is a form of addiction – which again is a perception of lack of choice, and therefore slavery.
The power of choice
Meditation – simply being in every moment fresh, aware and expansive – is related the full perception all the choices available. If I am watching my breath and my mind and someone insults me, I can breathe deeply and consciously choose my reaction. It could be a firm response. It could be a peaceful turning of the other cheek. It could be a humorous and gentle response. But if I am fully aware of all my choices, there is a great source of freedom and power available, knowing that whatever the other person does, they can not disconnect me from my inner foundation. If on the other hand, I go into reactivity, it is because I do not see a choice. I am attacked, therefore I must defend myself, even if doing so hurts me in the long run. This is being a slave to reactivity and habits.
If you think about what being loving to another is, choice is present during all manifestations of the expression of love. Often the best gifts are those that open doors and create more awareness of choices that have been overlooked. For instance, if you’re in a funk and depressed, being shown different perceptions, new experiences, new emotions, or new thoughts can offer much more awareness of the choices you’re making that contribute to your depression. Someone trying to cheer you up blinding without this can make you more depressed by contributing to that state of lack. Another possible gift might be to offer the choice of non-resistance – that one doesn’t have to fight depression as there are gifts inside it. This is a valid choice, and one with freedom inside it. But without the element of choice present, there is slavery, and where there is slavery there is no Love.
Simply looking at everything as choice – no matter how demanding it seems – brings us back to ourselves. It is fairly easy to think of the world as being a dark threatening place filled with cold demands, which is the world of slavery – in this world we have no choice but to react. Bringing choice into it shows how responsive the world can be to our creative powers.
Now, Martin Luther King didn’t just speak about race equality. In fact, it’s rarely mentioned in standard history books that for the latter years of his life, he spoke more often against the economic system that creates a form of slavery, as well as the military industrial complex. This was a man who moved from working against one form of slavery to seeing all beings as brothers and working against slavery in all its forms. He spoke equally of the power of love to bring light into the world.
I’m involved in activism myself, and I work for a world where people have all the choices they desire. There’s no reason with all our advances that we need to enforce slavery in any form whatsoever. We don’t need it economically, in parenthood, in relationships, or internally. Giving others freedom brings us all joy because of the vast interconnection we’re a part of. Giving it to ourselves creates ripples that show a better way of living to all the world.
When we inhabit the full power of the choices we have in every instant – which is to say our powerful and creative nature – that is when we learn that our identity is nothing Love. The most creative, powerful force in existence.
Blog roll! I quite enjoyed the Viriditas Spiritual Center blog: she’s an ex-nun working in a homeless shelter, demonstrating her life in a very loving, selfish fashion. It’s amazing how service teaches us not to be in slavery.
If you like this, please StumbleUpon – it works and I appreciate it!