Why I Think of Freedom as the Ability to Choose Ones Own
We went, my partner and I, to see the Francis Bacon exhibition
at the Tate today. A rare trip into the sunlight for me. My
favourite painter, a kind of incandescent genius. Bacon turned
everything on its head. Strangely modern, oddly classical
triptychs, like the one above. What do they really say?
We came home, late. Tired, she fell asleep quietly on the sofa,
smiling her contented smile. A perfect day. Something in my heart
broke, sharply, a little. Have you ever had a day
I wanted to preserve that moment in amber. To make it endless.
To stretch with it into infinity. But here is time. Here is death.
Here is the body, the form, here is decay and dissolution and
distance. To love is to grieve. To love, genuinely, is to brim over
with grief, in the very instant that one loves, for the very person
whom one loves. Bacon stretches the human shape into a blur. The
truth of us is revealed. A becoming that is a falling apart. And so
love is grief. Because even the very moment of love, truth,
revelation, is itself something that cant be held onto. Snap! Gone.
Every perfect moment is as evanescent as the frost, the wind, the
dust. Just like today.
Theres no consolation for that, is there? Except, perhaps,
tomorrow. But what does that make us?
We are a dilemma. Either we love genuinely, and we grieve
terribly, not later, but right here and right now, in the moment
that we love. Or we are too afraid to, and we are empty, lonely,
timid, and hollow. Either way, there is pain. No way out. Bacon
painted triptychs. Two choices. Grief or emptiness. One answer.
Love, which is death. Three panels.
The great question of us, if we are true, if we understand
ourselves, if we see deep into the heart of life, is whether we can
choose our own suffering. Or whether we must suffer in ways that we
wouldnt, or cant choose to suffer at all. Just that much. Ill come
back to it.
When we can choose our own suffering, we are free. In freedom,
we have dignity, grace, meaning, purpose, and beauty. But if we are
not free, we have none of those things. But to be free, we must
accept grief as the necessary price of love. That perfect moment
will pass, die, fall away, fade. Yet to experience it fully at all
is to choose all that.
Do you understand what Im trying to point to? The tragedy of the
human condition, you might say. In a way. Im pointing to
liberation. What is it, really? What should liberation be?
Liberation should be just what I had today. Nothing more,
The chance to choose which liberation one wants. The true oneor
the false one. The one made of love and grief, scarring the very
hearts that they free, the liberation of Bacon, Sartre, Camus,
Freud, Marx. Or the liberation of now. The one capitalism