I live in America where choice is marketed pretty hard. Here, we are free. We have options. Nobody tells us what to do.
Except maybe the tax collector. Or the police officer. Traffic lights. The boss. The regulatory agencies that govern business. The divorce lawyers that bleed for alimony. The terms and conditions on your blender’s warranty. The academic standards of whatever institution of higher education you happen to find yourself in. The selection at your local dress shop that boxes you in to whatever colors and hemlines the fashionistas have determined to be the rage this season.
And there are other limitations.
We’re only so tall. Our visual acuity is what it is. Can’t seem to hear frequencies much below 20 Hz and not much more than 20,000 Hz. We’ve only got so much money in the bank and the temperature outside doesn’t really care how we feel about it.
And then there’s the whole mortality thing. We get sick, most times without our consent. And no matter how careful we are, there’s always the other guy- the drowsy pilot, the buzzed driver. My life could very easily end at any moment without a whole lot of input from me.
If only we could be free! Like birds!
And then we’d only have to worry about instinctual migratory patterns that carry us potentially thousands of miles to treacherous breeding grounds to lay eggs at exactly the same time every year! But, ah! The wind through our feathers!
Alright, maybe there are some restrictions out there, but it sure seems like we’ve got at least a few choices that are under the semblance of our control. Our attitude, perhaps. The length of our hair, maybe. What we’re going to have for dinner, if we are privileged enough to have that option. Some people don’t.
Life experience should be enough to demonstrate to all but the most dense that virtually everything that comes our way has so much more to do with factors outside our control than we have been conditioned to believe. And that conditioning has everything to do with the marketplace and nothing to do with our well-being.
Restrictions are real. They cannot be avoided and the enlightened person finds contentedness within those restrictions. This involves cultivating a positive attitude and the liberal application of creativity and imagination to our respective situations. We can’t break the rules, but we can make love to them.
We can learn to see that, without restrictions, whether the laws of physics or municipal building codes, we couldn’t have crops, or running water, or buildings that could withstand earthquakes. We can embrace the utility of restriction to promote the security that allows our powerful individual energies to surge without arcing, to warm without burning, to ennoble without effacing.
So much is written by intelligent people suffocating under the perceived burden of imposed constraints. And their response, tragically, is to dismiss the constraints as limiting what would otherwise be their vast potential for authentic expression. They want to be what they want to be and the whole thing sounds fantastically romantic and sensible.
Except that there is no getting around restrictions. You’ll cast one off to find ten more. Concrete and abstract, we are limited at every moment by gravity, traffic, and the opinions of people we care about.
Quit running away, folks. There is no stepping out of the finite, limitary nature of our existence. We are preconditioned by a thousand laws- just a single chemical reaction out of sync and you’re dead or crazy.
I make music using the frame drum and my voice. I have other options, but I choose to embrace these restrictions as one way of practicing acceptance and resignation.
What other choice do I have?