Defining Freedom

By Priyanka Patel. Priyanka is 15 years old. She lives in London, UK

Freedom is a term which is very loosely associated with things. Although this is the case, one thing has always been very clear; we, as humans, desire freedom. We crave it. We yearn for it. But what exactly is freedom?

Freedom is very often personified in birds. ‘I want to be as free as a bird!’ people say. And this does not come from clueless little children or naïve youngsters. No, this desire to be a bird is often proclaimed by adults, who have experience, jobs and qualifications. But as Bob Dylan famously said ‘No one is free, even the birds are chained to the sky.’ A bird is thought to have achieved freedom because it can fly, however just as we are attached to the ground, a bird is attached to the sky. The wish for this form of freedom is thus not only impossible but also slightly contradictory.

Since freedom so far has been defined to be unattainable, there are some techniques humans have taken up to get as close to freedom as they can get. This includes hobbies, activities and even lifestyles. Arguably, the most important thing of all is escape. And nothing can provide this better than art.

Art is sometimes most simply thought of as ‘taking art supplies and making a pretty picture’. Unfortunately, some people fail to realise that there is more to art than this. Art can come in many forms; literature, poetry, films, music, dance, sculpture, drawing and painting. The list is almost never-ending. The various forms of life can be encountered during different times in one’s life.

The very first freedom we know is being able to paint a picture of anything we want. The blank sheet of paper by one had, and the colourful splatters of paint near the other are the only kind of freedom children know and want. Art makes them open to the world and more aware than ever before. It’s not only the art they create which can cause this, but also the art they see, such as pictures in storybooks. Already they have attained a certain amount of freedom of a kind.

As people grow older, they often use art as a form of escape. Whether your passion be dancing and singing, writing and reading, or painting and drawing, art can always be the form of escape most people require in their stressful lives. Everyday tasks become mere words on a checklist, and all else fades into the background when your mind starts working in overdrive and the creative side of you blossoms. This escape is surely a form of freedom, for you are no longer bound by the situations of your everyday lives.

To this point we have discovered that freedom is unattainable, but people still try to get as close to it as possible. Art is one of the ways in which they do so. But what seems so obvious is not often highlighted; the difficulty in gaining freedom.

Take for example the angel which Michelangelo carves ‘until I set him free’. Angels are, by tradition and definition, pure and virtuous beings. Humans cannot even compare to the qualities an angel possesses. Yet this angel, who desired freedom, could not achieve it until it was carved out of the stone. If this is what it takes for the angel to accomplish freedom, what height must a human be expected to go up to? An impossible one?

In conclusion, freedom, though hard to attain, if not impossible, can be touched upon through mediums like art. Such things are necessary in our lives as humans crave freedom so badly; if there was nothing to even bring us near to it, we would not be able to live.

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