You know, freedom is a wonderful thing. I’m sitting here in Balan’s coffee shop in Soho, London one sunny spring Saturday afternoon watching through the window the thousands of people who walk past up and down the street outside. I realise I am actually seeing freedom in action.
I reckon you must see people of every nation walking past here. Some are black, some are white, some are mixtures, some are Asian, some are gay, some are single, some are in couples and some are in groups. The atmosphere is decidedly one of peace. People are dressed in all sorts of ways. From suits and ties to casual to decidedly odd. There are women wearing the highest of heels and others in sandshoes. There are men in black with tattoos. The hairstyles range from short and cropped, to bald to frizzy in such a way its owner takes up half the footpath. Some people are ambling along enjoying the scenery while others have that look and gait that says they are on a mission.
Watching all this says to me how freedom is a wonderful thing. It allows us to reveal our inner most being for all to see. It allows us to explore and develop our creativity to the maximum.
However, like all things freedom needs to be continually protected. There are always forces around to “keep us in our place”. That is, keep us in the place that others want us to be. Freedom has no plan and no ideology. Freedom just is. Those who try to suppress freedom and make us all “fit in” do it out of fear. Fear that their view of the world is under threat.
My Buddhist friend Ilya told me of his Buddhist master’s view of the world. “We are all on a bus with no driver” he said. If we cooperate we can attempt to influence the bus to move in a certain direction. That takes cooperation , which is difficult for us humans to achieve.
Meanwhile, outside Balans the numbers of people milling around in the street are beginning to noticeably increase. It is simply more of the same. The people outside essentially are in no mood for war or violence – they are simply living their lives in their own way without interfering.
Watching all this contentment, my mind strays back to the homeless people I know. My people. Those in our Loaves and Fishes Free Restaurant in Ashfield, Australia ; those homeless kids in Bangkok and the street kids in Cambodia. These people here, walking up and down outside don’t want others to have to struggle like that. These people want everyone to live in the peace and contentment bubble they are feeling at this moment.
Therein lies the rub. Unless we human beings come face to face with poverty, alienation and rejection we tend to live in our own worlds. Today there is enough stress and strife in our own world to fill it totally. We live in an economic system that is at its core, ruthless. I have a fear that this ruthlessness and this sense of freedom go together, though. Economic freedom gives individuals the chance to amass great wealth at the expense of others. The people I know and the kids I know always miss out. Essentially they have missed out from birth and it just gets perpetuated.
If God is today looking down on all this that’s going on in the street outside, God must be very pleased with what God sees. But the question I always have is, why do so many people and kids have to suffer to allow this all to happen?
Right at this moment in Cambodia kids would be selling themselves to mainly dirty old men to survive.
A taxi has just stopped outside and a gigantic man and his equally large lady in red have just got out. They are rushing across the road to eat yet another meal neither really needs. In fact, this excess eating will lead them to an early grave.
It’d be better, both for them and the children, if they forego that meal and gave the food to hungry kids.
I know I’m a bit obsessed about what I saw in Cambodia at the moment. I feel a bit like I’m experiencing PTSD. What I saw there was real. I thought I was forever changed by all that I’ve seen and experienced in over 40 years of ministry (Lay and Ordained) in Australia but Cambodia was the icing on the cake! It has called me to double my efforts to help.
If you want to help me in any of my activities either financially or otherwise, please contact me at [email protected]