• Catherine de Zagon

Freely (English Version)

Without impediments, without limitations, without fear but also spontaneously and frankly.

 "I know only one freedom and it is the freedom of the mind".

- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Venezia 1940 "La guerra in Gondola" di Yakov Rumkin (1913-1986)

I live in Italy and have now been confined in our home for over 3 weeks.

I originally wrote this post in Italian and the title of this piece has unfortunately, been lost in translation: in Italian, the word free is Libero, and the word freely is Liberamente which actually means “free-mind”.

It is precisely about the freedom of our minds that I want to talk about.

These days we may feel as if under house arrest... Our freedom to move, to go out even for a simple (and healthy) nature walk, has been taken away.

We might perhaps feel like prisoners, or like animals in captivity ... and when we are allowed to go out for essentials, we run into long and endless lines.

Yet, this standing in a queue is familiar to me ...

I grew up in Florence during the affluent times of the 70’s and 80’s and at the age of 19, I went to live in the US - between Los Angeles and New York - where standing in line was what you did for trendy restaurants and the excess of it all is, or better was, the NORM. Where everything on offer is plentiful with an endless selection, and where everything is always "overstocked".

However, despite a life where I basically was never wanting for anything, this new reality made of long lines and lack of choice and abundance, feels ... "normal". Somehow my subconscious recognises it, my genetic heritage makes me digest it.

My father was Hungarian by birth, and as a young girl, we often spent our holidays in Hungary. Summers on Lake Balaton and winters in Budapest.

Queuing to buy food, the paucity of choice, hoping for forbidden items, even the phone being tapped at my uncle’s place, in short, "conditional" freedom seem somehow to be part of my genetic fiber, and going beyond my personal experiences as a young girl, the wars and scarcity that my parents, grandparents and ancestors have gone through, are also part of my collective subconscious.

What I do not recognize”, and a concept I cannot accept on a cellular level, is the dystopian atmosphere of masks and gloves and distances, but most of all, the fear in people's faces. If you even dare to take one step too close while standing in line, they glance at you as if you were a criminal. Mind you, I am not talking about a step that would violate the imposed safety distance. I fully understand and embrace the concept of prevention and social responsibility, but people are so afraid that they keep away 3 or even 4 meters away and look at you as if saying… “don’t even think about getting one step closer”!

It is this absence of a shared predicament, humanity and empathy, that I struggle with the most.

They look around to make sure that the "enemy", the other, (you) is not about to ambush them, so they may then be left alone to lose themselves in that small screen resting in the palm of their hands, the notorious "black mirror". They live, or rather we live, in the New Virtual World (NVW) where we feel safe. This NVW that locks us in a space even smaller than that of our apartments, or rooms, because it creates virtual boundaries; it censors and divulges disinformation; it comments, criticizes, judges and numbs that part of us that could truly be free: our mind. The NVW is not a bad tool in itself ... when used precisely as that, a tool but only IF we use it to make our lives better, to share our ideas, to oppose, to rebel against or to unite. But when it replaces living as sentient and free beings, when we no longer use our critical thinking, when it creates distance instead of bringing us closer ...

But I digress, forgive me, this is a topic to be explored further in a post dedicated to social media. Here I want to talk about something else ... about our Mind and our Freedom, with capital letters!

At this very moment, if it is true, as I mentioned at the beginning, that we are no longer "physically" free, we remain free beings. Freedom is not a physical concept and therefore it is not linked to our bodies, to our belonging, to our origins, to a country, or even to our current state.

I am a Naturopath and one of the fundamental principles of my training (in addition to Hippocrates’ concept of Vis Medicatrix Naturae, literally the healing power of nature), is to see human beings, not as a series of separate and distinct systems and apparatuses, and not even in the sum of its parts, which we know is already greater ... No, a human being, must be seen in its entirety: Body, Mind and Spirit.

In this historical moment, even though our bodies may be confined, our minds and souls can roam free. These chains, cages, prisons and rules cannot limit our minds, our emotions or our souls. These remain free to fly, to travel, and even meet ... If we allow it.

While if this concept is true, and since we do live in a dual world, the opposite is also true. Our mind can create those chains, cages and prisons, and blindly obey rules that are born out of parental or social conditioning, locking us up and blocking us from the natural drive to go forward, to see beyond.

So how do we free an enslaved mind, one impeded by restrictions and false beliefs?

By reviving the spirit of wonder and curiosity, that of the happy child that lives inside of us. We must thirst for adventure, we must be curious, read, create, observe, dream, love, get excited and abandon boundaries, fears and insecurity. We must Live in gratitude, which does not equate to surrendering to a situation, but rather to choose FREELY (with a free mind) on how to react in any given situation.

And when it comes to Social Media, I am ever so grateful to all those who have creatively transformed this difficult time into a deluge of brilliant cartoons and jokes that I confess, have cause my stomach to cramp from laughing - freely! I have seen endearing videos that prove that with a little imagination, even a small studio apartment can become a whole new planet for their children, still free from constrained beliefs, and distorted self-image, to whom two chairs and a blanket are enough to make-believe you are in a cave, or in a tent, a great explorer and adventurer. All a child needs is to be in a laundry basket lifted in the air by dad to believe he is flying. It is not childish, it is freedom, it is the un-censorship of the mind.

And since I mentioned Saint-Exupéry at the beginning of this post, I want to share this: in his book The Little Prince, there is a passage in the beginning where the Little Prince asks the narrator to draw him a sheep. One by one, the narrator offers him 3 drawings which aren’t quite what the Little Prince wanted, either too old, too frail, not a sheep at all!. Losing his patience, the narrator draws a closed box with some holes for air and declares "this is the box. The sheep you want is inside”. To his surprise, the Little Prince's eyes light up as he declared "That's exactly how I wanted it!".

That box represents freedom. The Little Prince’s freedom to refuse a pre-designed or imposed version of reality, lets him instead be able to imagine it at will. This is the freedom of the mind; this is where creativity is born: in the closed box.

The box represents: infinite possibilities.

I invite you to use this time where, being confined in our homes, means you are free from your social lives and obligations, and therefore from judgment (real or perceived), and are able to free yourselves, most of all, from your own judgment. Free yourself from that inner voice, the one that lives in your head and diminishes you, causes you fear, anxiety and conditions you. Tell it that you are free and that with your mind, with your soul, you can fly.

Let's meet in the collective imaginary, and as it is thankfully happening to our planet, let’s clean it up from mental pollution, let’s free it from those limiting beliefs that were never ours, from hatred, discrimination, excessive individualism and narcissism and let’s fill it with humanity, love, joy, beauty and creativity.

So, write, read, draw, sing, play, dance, love, laugh ...

Remember however, to do all of this while you #stayhome and #staysafe!

With love and joy, Catherine


Meridith McNeal, artist, director of the children's foundation Art Yard, sorella and oh so much more!

Elisabeth S. de Zagon for lovingly giving up sleep to edit the English version. You da Best!

Take a deep breath! 

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