On the 4th and 5th of May in The Netherlands we commemorate the 2nd World War. On the 4th of May we remember and honor the casualties of the war and on the 5th of May we celebrate our freedom. Do not get me wrong: I believe that it is important to honor those who fell for our freedom and to celebrate our freedom. But in this article I investigate what remembrance and freedom means to me as an individual.
As we live in a first world country and the war is over 70 years ago, honoring those who fell to free us and celebrating our freedom is a bit of an artificial act. Many people in The Netherlands have never encountered anything which is remotely similar to a war.
And of course, when we watch the news, we see war everywhere. Terrible things are happening all the time and as a result we should be grateful that we can live in peace. But, what else than being silent for 2 minutes can I do? I could donate money to relevant charities. I could vote in such a way that I support institutions which promote peace (the UN) or that I generously receive war victims in our country? Or I could change my bank from ING to Triodos in order to cut down investments in the weapon industry.
But to be honest, I do really believe in doing any of those things. Rather than believing that I can influence the outside world (call me what you like: disillusioned, harsh or realistic), I try to translate what remembrance and freedom means to me as an individual. Because the outside world easily becomes political or socially correct.
Jihad or holy war within your self
I am intrigued by the concept of Jihad. Jihad is not a holy war outside of yourself (of which we see so much on the news from many religions), but Jihad is a holy war inside your self. Within ourselves we can see a continuous war between our vices and virtues. Or practically for myself the Sebastiaan who is easy, sloppy, not concentrated, not interested, not emphatic, etc. etc. fighting with the Sebastiaan who is diligent, respectful, caring, attentive, etc. etc.. Nobody is perfect and we all have these ‘fights’ within ourselves from time to time (especially when we are tired!). And we are not always as ‘good’ or ‘perfect’ as we think we can be.
Remembrance of Jihad
With the above in mind: what could Jihad mean with regard to remembrance and being silent for 2 minutes? The holy war of our personal journey has many victims from both sides. Sometimes the ‘good’ win and sometimes the ‘bad’. But the sum of your Jihad is who you are. One might ask: ‘Are you still fighting the same enemies as you did last year? Or have you overcome some of your vices and are you fighting stronger inner enemies?’ One might also feel grateful: nobody is born perfect and we are all learning. The wars we have waged within (and without!) ourselves have been necessary to grow. From this perspective, we might honor the victims from both sides of our inner war. The process of self-remembrance is often a painful process as there are often there are hurtful memories which we not readily like to see. However, after re-member-ing your Self in such a way, you might feel whole, rejuvenated, respectful and grateful. It is time to celebrate your freedom!
Freedom To Be
What does freedom mean? The tendency is again to make a political correct statement. Of course it is important to be free, but who of us have the experience of being truly repressed? On the other hand, we live in a society which tries to influence us as never before (Facebook). And then again, I can celebrate my freedom at the many festivals in Holland. I hedonistically can drink, do drugs, eat and enjoy life until I can no longer walk. But is endless enjoying and consuming freedom? This outer definition of freedom is not very meaningful. So I need to go within my self and try to define what freedom means to me. As Shakespeare famously wrote ‘to be or not to be’, freedom for me is To Be. To Be is to, via spiritual development, realize my Self. It is a conscious and continuous act. Not To Be is when I live on my auto pilot. When I am not conscious, readily things will happen, but it is no longer my choice. The quality of my Presence declines and passion disappears. No longer do I do things which truly my Self wants to do. Another example of Not To Be is the illusion of not being free. It is thinking within limitations, like a horse tied to a plastic chair or the couple in the Devil tarot card. From the above comes that freedom is not some status quo, but that it is the consequence continuously being conscious. It is the conscious choice To Be. From this perspective the will To Be can be seen as a process to re-member- your Self.
Concluding it can be argued that, remembering and freedom are not necessarily external static cliché’s, but can be seen as relevant internal dynamic concepts essential towards self-realization.