limits and freedom

cornwall cliffs

Imagine if you could do anything you want, and absolutely nothing was off limits, and your choices were unlimited, how would you feel?

At first you think, yes! I’d feel great. But the reality is, if you’re like me, you don’t feel free. You feel trapped. There are too many things you could do so you end up not doing any of them. You’re frozen with indecision facing all the possibilities.

“The more restrictions you have, the easier anything is to write.”
Stephen Sondheim

I believe him.

If I don’t have a deadline, or a framework, a word count, I get stuck.

When there’s nothing I can’t do, in the end, I don’t do anything. It’s the opposite of what you’d expect.

Dr Seuss wrote CAT IN THE HAT because he was asked to write an early reader book and given a limited vocabulary list. The first two words on the list were “Cat” and “Hat.”

The book that might seem one of the most free of any children’s book ever–was born of severe constraints and strict limitations.

St Paul wrote his great letter about freedom (Galations)–from a prison cell.

I often think of this when I’m walking by the edge of cliffs (as of course I always am in NYC, not).

No, but every year, around this time, we go to North Cornwall. I just got back from a trip. We did all these lovely long walks on the coastal path that leads you on a quite narrow cliff path–with a sheer drop. One misstep and you would plummet to your death on the rocks below. There are no railings or fences, so you have to step carefully, gingerly at times, very slowly and keep looking down, watching every step.

The Rumps (yes, that is their name), North Cornwall

The Rumps (yes, that is their name), North Cornwall

However, if there were fences at the edges of the cliff, you could (in theory) race full speed right up to boundary of the fence without fear. You’re freer, in that sense, with the fence than you are without it. You are free to run and play and not be so careful.

What are the limitations you find yourself hedged in by? Could they be a blessing — heavily disguised? And what if they are in fact making you more free, not less?

SLJ.

5 Responses to “limits and freedom”

  1. Emily

    Intriguing words..I think this is a great lens to see my child’s autism diagnosis through. It feels limiting on the outside, but I believe she will also think uniquely and make discoveries that she may not have otherwise!

    Reply

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