Unfettered freedom; America’s elbow room.

Tis the week we Americans begin getting a sprightly gleam in our eyes. It could be suggestive of our massive appreciation and gratitude toward our forefathers—the ones who gave their lives for our liberties. Or it may simply be a reflection of all the illegal fireworks we’re setting off in preparation for the big day: the one where we’re supposed to be showing massive appreciation and gratitude toward our forefathers, but end up losing focus due to the overabundance of burgers, beer and bad behavior.

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Therefore, this year I am determined to explore the theme of freedom before my brain becomes befuddled.

Summertime is a season where typically we are encouraged by the onslaught of complimentary commercials to enjoy the hot, sunny days and wear the attitude of one who is footloose and fancy-free. And I think that works brilliantly if you have a trust fund and are allowed free rein with someone else’s credit cards. Sadly, this is not the case for most of us.

If you are a regular Joe, with a “regular Joe” debt, any day that you are offered a free lunch, or a free ride, or heck, even a Freemason, you’ll likely feel some appreciation—especially if  you’re hoping to understand anything Dan Brown has written.

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So although we attempt to conjure up a free spirit on our off hours and break free from the hectic work week mentality, it can be challenging to toss off the shackles that bind us and view our good fortune.

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I’m trying to encourage this holiday of independence to become as meaningful as I can possibly make it. One needs only read the headlines or hear the top of the hour news to gain crisp perspective on how fortunate many of us are—irrelevant to the number of dollars, pounds or shekels we have in our respective bank accounts. A good number of us are granted the license of self-government—to an extent. Wear what you want to wear, say what you want to say, love whom you want to love. These are prime examples in our culture of where we are encouraged to think and act freely. And folks make an impressive practice of it.

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Unfortunately, not many follow through with an all important end clause: think and act freely, and then pick up all the garbage that may have been the result of your thinking and acting freely. That’s the hard part. Because as I see it, sometimes the privileges we’ve come to bank on crumble, and from then on it’s a slow, tortuous game of pass the buck in search of a clean-up crew. You can ascribe these words to politics, to education, and even to something as trivial as whomever chose the “meh” food, horrific service, and over-priced restaurant you all dined at last night.

As I sit in wonder this week, hearing the pop and crack of homemade bottle rockets, cherry bombs and Roman candles, and as I gaze with awe watching the professionals set off specialty fireworks–particularly, certain explosions that leave me wondering how anyone was able to make a massive Bundt cake appear in the sky, I want to evoke my many definitions of the concept of independence.

Self-reliance falls under that umbrella. Realizing that yes, maybe for much of your life someone else is in the driver’s seat, but understanding that at any point you are allowed to ask your chauffeur to pull over and let you drive, let you out, or let you toss your cookies on the side of the road before you continue on. And all free from guilt. You are more than capable of deciding your own compass heading.

Self-determination is another idea I gravitate toward, as well as the easily linked word autonomy. The world is full of people with ideas. Some are masterful and well-thought out, some are sparked ‘in the moment’ by inspiration, and some are bound together within the pages of The Darwin Awards—a wonderful series of books that salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it.

My point is, is that it takes courage to strike out. It takes confidence and pluck and a bold arrogance that you are right. And sometimes, all it takes is an excess of liquor.

If there is one thing in particular that I will focus on during the celebration of this country’s independence, it will be bravery. Robert Anthony is quoted as saying, “The opposite of bravery is not cowardice but conformity.” It’s clear that history is rife with examples of those who chose to liberate themselves from an incompatible life. They faced a daunting task. And it took grit.

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Freedom is not free. It comes with a price. And I believe that the higher the price you pay for something the dearer it becomes to you.

This is not a free ride, it is not a free-for-all, and we are certainly not home free. There are people who need our strength, children who need our voices, and causes that need our leadership.

Stand up and fight. Like those before you.

I want to see you be brave.


(And for your viewing and listening pleasure, watch this vid and get motivated!)

June Gotta Have a Gott winner

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Click on June 30th to see the cartoons in competition and to cast your vote.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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58 thoughts on “Unfettered freedom; America’s elbow room.

  1. Great post. The simple things are the ones I hold most dear. The right to act silly if the need arise. My right to eat my pie first. My right to walk in the rain if I want. I think even the most complacent citizen would notice if our “biggie” rights were abrogated. It has been said before but we need to be ever vigilant. Thanks for the post. I hope you have a great 4th!

    • Lovely reminders of those delightful and delectable liberties we can easily take for granted, and yes, how important it is to step back and see the bigger picture, Benson. You make some good points. Thanks so much for sharing them. I think I shall go eat some pie and be grateful for every forkful–except tomorrow morning when I step onto the bathroom scale. Gratitude somehow diminishes just a little bit right then and there. 🙂 Happy Fourth to you too!

  2. How true your words ring. A great challenge to us all! Does your husband create the little cartoon postings throughout? They made me smile. 🙂

    • Thank you, Sasha. I so appreciate your thoughtful words–and no, Rob and I are not even NOT married, but we’ve never met. Rob lives in Sweden currently, but is an Englishman, so I know this post was a particularly painful one for him to struggle thru. Memories of a once conquered land now lost to the empire. It surely must sting, but he muddled on. :p Read all about Peak Perspective’s infamous Rob HERE. Enjoy!

    • I’m so happy you got that from the post. I think it’s one of our greatest challenge–while making new people and raising our families–to try to instill the urgency needed to maintain “freedom,” and the ways our children can give the call for action attention. And to also interpret personal freedom on many levels, and find wondrous gratitude from doing so. Much of it stems from mirroring us.
      Thanks so much for your comment, Cheergerm. Cheers!

  3. Very thoughtful post. Sometimes I wish my fellow Americans would self-impose a few more restrictions within their framework of freedom. Such as choosing not to operate motorized gadgets during the dinner hour while neighbors are trying to enjoy a meal al fresco 😉

      • Yes LOL we have the guns too. I wanted to complain about them, but censored myself. It is our national madness. Soon the fireworks will be popping in full force. I can’t help observing that most of this cacophony is the province of males, who have an inexplicable love for anything that goes boom.

        • And then it seems to fall into the hands of a good woman who stupidly fell for the doltish male with the inexplicable love for anything that goes boom to repair the one who is now going OW.
          (I am seriously hoping Alys does not read the above, as it is a prime example of the worst of my writing.)

          • 🙂 You should have said “the doltish male who inexplicably fell.” Then it would be poetry! But seriously, your sentence reminds me of a long-ago July 4 celebration at which a man excitedly set off a bottle rocket, hitting his female companion in the eye. That was their first and last date. It stands for me as an enduring example of male doltishness and rich symbolism. If only men would shoot off their rockets with more attention to detail and less haste, the world would be a happier place…

  4. Shelley,

    Your wrote words have such strong meaning and much that I wish everyone would take time to digest what the term “freedom” truly means. With all that is transpiring around the world today, be it the fight for religious freedom, secular moral freedom, emotional, inspirational, spiritual, freedom of speech or the sip-ids of daily life… what is the cost of freedom and what does it truly mean?

    As humans, we think ourselves to hold the ability to share the highest agility of compassion, creativity, sensibility, reasonability… one gets the point, I digress. Yet, amazingly, we do seem to off more of our own through selfishness; without, or, with very little consideration of another’s definition of “freedom”. Chew on that for a bit, if only the rest of humanity would.

    On the bright side, my best regards and of course satirical condolences to Rob… may he celebrate the 4th of July with a vibrant joy as do the rest of my fellow patriots! (They do have the 4th of July in England, yes? God Bless the Queen).

    Rob, your drawings belong in the New Yorker. That, or your should consider political subjects. You have such a talent and American politics offer a plethora of fools.

    Much respect,

    Stoshu 🙂

    • Thanks for diving into this post today, buddy–you always peel back the layers and really inspect the underneath, don’t you? It’s a marvelous trait to have.

      I believe Rob is somewhere deep in the Black Forest, hiding from any reminders of what will be taking place shortly on enemy soil. (Although he was good enough to make some dandy Yankee doodles, so my hat’s off to the fellow. Good soul that he is.)

      Thanks for your wonderful words, as always. ❤

    • Rob… are you alive? Forbeit that you moved to another country further up north, yet sir, you must hold true to the Motherland. God save the Queen. Consider Wisconsin, eh?

      Shelley, again a wonderful post. How do I recomend you for a “Freshly Pressed?” You deserve it!

      Much love,

      Stoshu 🙂

      • He’ll get your notes of concern soon enough–well as soon as the install wifi in the Black Forest of Germany. I think he’s camping with the kiddos. Ah, to unplug!
        And thanks for the extra vote of thumbs up for my writing. Big hugs to you, Buddly Bo Winkle. xx

    • Hi – yes, I’m alive, deeply embedded in the forest in the middle of Sweden right now. Constant rain but the mosquitos continue to bite nonetheless. Thanks for the tip about the New Yorker. I’ll drop them a line 🙂

  5. Hear, hear, Shelley! I love what you wrote here: “[T]hink and act freely, and then pick up all the garbage that may have been the result of your thinking and acting freely. That’s the hard part.” Oftentimes people want their freedom, but they don’t want to deal with the consequences of their actions. You and I must have been on the same wavelength this past week, because I posted a poem that inspired much discussion about free will. I hope you have a wonderful Fourth of July holiday. As neighbors let off an array of fireworks around here, like they do every year, my oldest dog will spend the evening hiding behind the toilet, convinced that the world is ending and she’s found the safest place to ride out the apocalypse. The peacocks up the road will be roused from sleep and will scream with a mixture of fury and terror. We humans might enjoy the holiday, but I think it’s safe to say that most animals certainly do not.

    • Oh, your kind words, Miranda, always fill me with such juicy joy. And the visual of your sweet pup cowering behind the toilet is one I will likely carrying around this week until the sparklers are nothing but ashes on sticks. Poor fellow! Ear muffs?

      I’m so looking forward to my weekly dose of Stone Prose. And of course to discovering how we continue to have this wondrous mental alignment.

      Happy and safe 4th to you, my friend. Here’s to the freedom to write what we feel we must say!

      • I’m serious, Shelley–I think we must be related. Just too much synchronicity going on for it to be otherwise, don’t you think? And you know how some people get all excited when they find they’re distantly related to a celebrity or person of royalty? I’d be shouting, “I’m related to SHELLEY!” 😀 My dog is nuts. I even bought her a Thunder Shirt. Thunder Shirts apparently work wonders for dogs all across the country, making them feel safe in stressful times (like the Fourth of July). Not my dog. The Thunder Shirt freaks her out more than the loud noise. Happy 4th to you and your family as well!

  6. Wonderful post, Shelley! Like Miranda, I was struck by “think and act freely, and then pick up all the garbage.” Freedom does not mean infringing on the rights of others, and speaking up on behalf of others is an essential act of bravery in today’s times. Stay tuned for my upcoming post this week on Captain America – I think you’ll like it. 🙂 In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the 4th – I’m looking forward to my own Canada Day celebration this week!

    • Thank you for your heart-warming compliment, Sue. And I so look forward to your post. Your writing is always a pleasure to read!
      Happy Canada Day to you. I hope it will be filled with the celebration of unity. Cheers!

  7. This: “… think and act freely, and then pick up all the garbage that may have been the result of your thinking and acting freely.” Amen, sista.
    Yes, we have all the freedom in the world. That doesn’t absolve of us of the responsibility to be decent human beings.

  8. I always ‘save’ your posts, for a time when I can fully digest them. It’s also a treat to wait for all the intelligent and thought-provoking comments that follow. I want to write like you ‘when I grow up’ which might be never. It’s a lovely goal to aspire too, and so I read and try to absorb what exactly makes your writing so good, so tasty, so intriguing and so enjoyable. (For starters, you probably don’t use ‘so’ all the time the way I do.)

    The fact that your blog features brilliant cartoons by the talented Mr. Gott (who I now follow as well), an artist and writer you’ve never met speaks volumes.

    We’re raising politically-minded boys who understand the remarkable freedoms we have in this country, (to the extent that a privileged teenager can) and know the importance of voting and taking a stand. Interestingly,my father was British, my mom Canadian and my in-laws are from Italy and Argentina, so our international roots give us some perspective on how the other half lives.

    I would love to see the US adopt a year of service for all able-bodied souls. Not military service, but humanitarian service: a year of teaching someone how to read or grow vegetables, or help building a house, tending to the sick, or clearing an empty lot in a blighted area. If we all stepped up and helped others while at the same time seeing how others live, I think it would go a long way toward finding and maintaining freedoms around the world.

    As I’ve no doubt reached my word allotment, I’ll close with this: I levitated off the couch last night when a neighbor set off an explosive. We were watching Jon Stewart and he’d just commented on the grizzly gun statistics in this country. It gave me pause. I feel sorry for all the pups cowering over the next ten days, as well as the rest of us that would give their eye tooth for 1000 years of peace.

    • Firstly, Alys, I feel like I should put you in my will for saying such kind and incredibly thoughtful things about my writing. Good heavens, I’ll soon have an ego the size of a planet if I keep reading your comment–which I’ve now pinned on my bathroom mirror.
      And the fridge, and my steering column, and of course one can’t forget the flyers I made and put up at the library and grocery store. 😛
      Secondly, I LOVE that you and your husband feel it important enough to encourage your young men to give a hoot about the situation they’ve been born into. Most kids I know put off collecting any of that knowledge unless it’s stored temporarily for a school exam or they feel they should pay attention because they finally get to vote in an up coming election. And even then much of their scrutiny is superficial. I suppose it’s all layering.
      Thirdly, I would vote for you if you decided to run for political office simply because of your platform of required service. Good heavens, what a desirable country we would live in if we could impose such legislation–and mindset. Coincidentally, I’ve been collecting info to do a post on volunteering–whether the ‘hard core give a year of your life’ type or the ‘I prefer not to have to leave my house, but still can be useful’ form. It’s all good. It’s all worthy. It’s a work in progress and shall hopefully become a helpful post.
      Thanks again, Alys for your terrific comments and insight. Your words are always truly wonderful to read. Happy Sparkler Day. 😀

    • Yes, I’d heartily agree, most of us love the free and easy portion of our Constitution, but then when the sticky bits start showing up, it becomes inconvenient. Maybe if we could all have a daily dose now and again of the flip side of how things could be (and currently are for many), we’d somehow find the energy to participate–if not simply fully appreciate.
      Thanks so much for sharing your comments, my friend!

    • Yeah, I’d agree with you, that’s a pretty good head scratcher–and hopefully precursor to movement.
      Thanks so much for chiming in. I love to know what strikes a chord. (or a chorus of Hallelujah!)

  9. Great post. Great comments from your readers (of which I am one loyal).
    I have all kinds of mixed feelings over ‘Da Fourth’. I am a patriot, yes. I ‘served’ my country. I enlisted when I did not have to. I suffered young through Viet Nam. Yada yada yada.
    Lately, I lean far left (unusual for a Texan, but I learned how to read)
    Anyway, before I go three bubble off plumb and embarrass myself, I just want to say two or three things:
    I love the way you write and I love what you write about.
    (Oh! And I have memorized all the Lenny Bruce and George Carlin bits ever posted on ‘YourTube’, not to mention Christopher Hitchens)

    • Lance, I adore your candid and pithy comments–about yourself, and the world and how simple it is to boil everything down to a precisely campy point of view. You are such a unique individual, and your stories are those that never fail to surprise and entertain.
      Thank you so much for being one of this blog’s loyal readers and expositors. Your color truly adds some much wanted depth and breadth to the conversation.
      And my many thanks for your service–I doubt I will ever be able to truly “appreciate” what you did–the scope is just too grand, but I hope you can see the attempt to acknowledge your efforts and the gratitude that accompanies it.
      Cheers to you, Lance. Happy Sparkler Day.

      • Thanks for your kind and generous words. I must say I am a little overwhelmed.

        One thing I may need to make clear. Yes, I enlisted and served when I was twenty-seven. (U.S. Navy 85-90). I did not serve in Vietnam. Hope I did not give that impression. When I said I suffered young through Viet Nam, I was referring to how the war had affected my young ‘self’ and how the conflict within my community and the nation changed the way I viewed my government.
        Thanks again for your wonderful reply

  10. For us the 4th is a day of community. We walk down the hill with neighbors we don’t see often enough (other that to wave in passing) and watch the parade. Some years I have walked in the parade with Friends of the Creeks or Friends of the Nature Area. We wave at our friends in old cars throwing candy to the kids, youngsters grouped on bikes, the swim club etc; the firemen spray us with water and best of all the local dogs prance in a tail-wagging group. A couple of ranchers are still around and show up in ancient tractors or hay wagons. Then everyone heads to the park. 🙂

    • What a blissful, beautiful day, Cinda! Old fashioned, family centered, community enjoyed delights. A perfect celebration. I shall wave my sparklers toward Norther California on Friday and wish you a memorable time.
      Cheers to you!

  11. What an interesting, thought-provoking post. I’ve always been curious about your 4th of July holiday and its significance. We here in Australia, haven’t got there yet – we haven’t managed to shake off the mantel of ‘Mother England’ and remain tied to the Westminster System. Our Australia Day (26th January) is the closest equivalent but that’s more about celebrating our Australian-ness, not our independence. 🙂

    • Many thanks for your kind comments, Lee Anne, and I’ve got a few friends in Australia–all of whom seem to embody the ideals of strength, independence and the spirit of freedom. And those are some of their weakest character traits! I love the Aussies–have yet to come across one who hasn’t inspired me in some way. Here’s to your Australian-ness!

  12. Another great post. Gah, I am always in awe of how precise your words are in each post. it’s interesting to be in Japan, and see the differences (for one, there’s no de facto Fourth of July, and no county fairs, for that matter) between nations. I sort of miss being a little patriotic, but I agree that the fall-out of unabashed “freedom” without looking out for the consequences is no good… I can tell you for certain the rest of the world focuses on the latter, rather than the former.

    • Thank you, Alex, your comments are always so meaningful to me–especially since in this particular case you have such an unusual perspective from where you make your point of view. I have enormous respect for how you have embraced a new country and its culture. Your posts come across as one who savors each new experience and hungers for more. You’ve an appetite for both literature and civilization and the desire to spread your adventures with whomever is willing to come along for the ride. To me, I think that quality supersedes patriotism, because it’s replaced with a much more important global view of humanism.
      I shall wave a sparkler in honor of you!

  13. As another Brit I don’t mind you celebrating the 4th July in the least – what we don’t tell you is we celebrate too, in the manner of weary parents whose troublesome teen has finally grown up and left home. OK, so maybe that’s not strictly true, but it’s no cause for angst either. 😉

    It was yet another occasion when I scrolled down past Rob’s cartoons going, this is my favourite one, no, this one, no, wait, this one…and so on. There’s always a slight frisson of excitement when I ‘get’ the joke.

    I really loved the way you honed in on the fact that privileges bring responsibilities – it’s always been something we’ve tried to drum into our children, along with the need to keep up with world events and use your vote wisely. Such wise words you wrote, I wish everyone would read, learn and inwardly digest.

    • Laura I think you created a brilliant analogy to describe our countries’ relationship with one another. And I love the humorous spin.

      And I wholeheartedly agree that it’s one of those sparkly moments when you spend more than the casual couple of seconds on Rob’s work, to see that oftentimes there’s a double entendre or a deeper level of humor.

      Lastly, thanks so much for your lovely comments. It’s heartwarming and soul satisfying to know there are many other folks out there attempting to communicate these important messages to the generations who will replace us. Cheers to you (and we’ll try to keep the noise down come Friday nite!)! 😛

  14. Wow! What a great string of comments – like some litedrary chemical reaction. A big blog bang!
    I just noticed that the “Gotta have a Gott” post on my blog was minus pictures. I’ve fixed this now, so hop over there and cast your vote.
    Happy 4th of July to all you Americans. Even though we Brits don’t officially celebrate the split, it all worked out for the best and what would the USA have been like if we Brits still ran the show? Now, that’s an idea for a novel 🙂

    • In your honor, Rob, I shall run around the front lawn tonight with a lit sparkler and sing God Save the Queen, but maybe not loud enough for the neighbors to hear.
      And only one verse. 😛

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