Monday, April 04, 2005

What Freedom Means to Me

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes. -- Mahatma Gandhi

"Freedom to make mistakes." What does that mean to you? Have we come so far in this imperfect world that people must not make mistakes for fear of punishment?

I don't claim to know everything that goes on in the world, and for the most part, my views are clouded by what I read in the newspaper or hear on the television. However, my world is words, my life is words, my work is words. I live to write and as a writer, I know that what I put down on paper may not always be what ends up as the final copy. I accept that. What would life be like if everything I wrote had to be perfect the first time? What if there was no freedom to make a first draft or edits? I, for one, would probably be very hesitant about each word I wrote, knowing that I didn't get a second chance to fix an error.

Isn't that what we can do every day when we speak? Do we get a chance at a draft before we say our final message? Can we make edits to our words later? No, we do not, no we cannot. Our words, once spoken, can never be edited. Oh, sure, we can say, "but, that's not what I meant," or, "you misunderstood me." Apologies can always be made for something we said, but once said; always heard, and always remembered.

In this modern world we have the technology to speak and write instantaneously. I've observed many Message Board discussions where a topic is introduced and without inflection or actual voice, great debates emerge over mere words. Important topics disappear over an exchange of "you said/I said" and viable questions go unanswered as conversations run tangets from the original subject.

Debates emerge with quotes taken from previous messages, until the entire subject disappears in the nether-regions of cyberspace. No longer do simple conversations occur, comfortably across a table, between friends or acquaintances. Nevertheless, great debates are waged every day, from desktop to desktop across the world, between complete strangers of varying backgrounds. Over what? Mere words.

Words, in my opinion, are the most powerful weapon in the world. With one swipe they can cut deeper than any sword. With one quote they can change an entire nation. With one statement they can be used against you for the rest of your life.

We've gone so far in this great nation to debate over the definition of a word and its meaning in context and out of context. And, for what? To prove a point, to be heard, to define ourselves - to have the chance to say what we mean or change what we said.

Words, once spoken, always heard, never forgotten.

"Freedom to make mistakes." So, what does that really mean to you? I believe, that as people, we are not perfect, and should give each other the chance to make amends for words chosen inappropriately, in either the heat of the moment or the passion of the discussion. And, as such, we should be more careful in what words we do choose to use.

No matter how important you are, or what position you hold in the long chain of life, there is always going to be another out there - listening, observing. Choose your words carefully, when speaking or writing. You are being heard. Make sure you are heard in the way you want, not just to make noise.

The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything else. -- Edward John Phelps


Anonymous said...

Well put. It's important to strive to say what we mean and to mean what we say. But I agree with you that we ought to have a chance to explain ourselves if we say something that doesn't come out the way we mean it.

Queen Jaw Jaw said...

This was so well put. I commend you for telling the world to be kind. I needed this gentle reminder myself!