Slave or King?

In the world of drumming, where I’m delighted to play a minor role – the chair we use is called a throne. My good friend Elton Craig always once asked me, “Are you ruling your kingdom well?” 🙂

The application, of course transcends music. I have seen far too many people trapped by their history, locked into limiting beliefs.

In Alexandra, Johannesburg, when I encourage young African men and women to seize the opportunities now before them, many say, “But this is Alex. That won’t work here.” Â Of course, there are few positive role-models living there – they leave, forsaking their community like a dream released upon waking.

Yet some succeed – they establish businesses that serve Sandton, only 5km away, instead of the locals, who cannot afford much. These individuals employ people from the community and are the backbone of the economy. Still others seek out education which will potentially open doors within businesses, preferably with a learnership. Being excellent in their chosen field is their delight.

How do these folks think? Freely. They have trained their minds to see opportunity and seize it. They are those who believe they can. And do. They risk, sometimes fall, but resiliently rise from the ashes to reclaim their inheritance.

Mental slavery has other forms, notably the “cubicle” variety. Employees travel to their employer, complete their morning routine, and wake up on the journey home, in time to have a family life. I saw similar thinking upon entering University: those who were had followed their parents’ values, instead of exploring their own, rebelled and experimented with wild parties, sex, drugs and anything else they could get their hands on. They thought they were free. Many awoke years later to face regrets and lost years of productivity.

It seems there are two streams of freedom: one releases and the other embraces. “Release” freedom is delight at escaping the oppressive system, whatever its form. It is a rebellion against something. It is escapisim at its best. “Embrace” freedom revels in the choices available, selecting those which will continue the path towards purposeful living. These two realms are also the root of human motivation. I do not need to force my young son to eat ice-cream. He asks for it, and seeks it out. Usually, we exert “you must…or else” pressure for things he resists eating. And the moment he can, he will select “Release” freedom and buy an ice-cream.

I’m sure you’ll note that “Embrace” freedom pre-supposes self-awareness, self-knowledge, and certain goal-directedness. It also puts the onus on the individual to be the liberator. To be accountable. To exercise control over his/her thinking – the one realm where our will is king. It’s better than letting circumstances and history encourage mental slavery and slip-streaming other, goal-directed people.

We either choose our own future, or we will find ourselves in someone else’s vision.

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