JULIE | MELBOURNE
Freedom is not free
I'm in Hong Kong attending an Ignatian Spirituality Conference. This spirituality is at the heart of Bamboo. There are about 600 people here, mainly from Asia, with people from mainland China being the largest group of participants.
One of the things that's striking me is the contrast with, for example, the Australians who make an art form out of irreverence (which I'm very at home with and, in the main, enjoy) and, for example, the Chinese participants who seem so earnest, reverent and attentive to everything being said. This is no doubt a cultural difference but as I talk to people it seems also that it's because of our very different circumstances. They are appreciative of the input, the conversations and the opportunity to soak up the gems of Ignatian spirituality; by contrast when I think about people back home and others from more 'open' societies, we often seem blasé, taking our spiritual heritage for granted, and unaware of the wonder of God, the gift of freedom and the fulness of life that is being offered to us.
With this gift of freedom in mind, I went to see the protest in the heart of Hong Kong that's now a number of weeks old. I was surprised to see how large it is, and the order and calm that characterised it. I was struck by one sign "Freedom is not free".
In the light of Ignatian spirituality I pondered this message. What does it mean?
At first level I suppose it means that we have to work for our freedom - our political freedom. It's not a given. For many there is a cost, a very personal cost, that they must pay. For many of us it's a 'right' we take for granted, while meanwhile it's often being chipped away without our seeming to notice or care.
At another level, a spiritual level, I wonder about this message "Freedom is not free". From where I sit, it is and it isn't.
The wonder is that it IS free. It's a gift for each and every one of us. Something that we don't 'earn' - sheer gift. And yet, it's not imposed on us. It's something we can choose, or not, to 'receive'. In that sense there is some effort required from us, some disposing of ourselves, some opening up and fostering of receptivity.
We've been exploring over these days here how we might do that. It seems to start with listening - to the inner movements of our heart, our own experience; and then, reflecting on that, moving to action. In this tradition it always leads to action, to deeper engagement with our world. And that takes me back to the protest....and to pondering again "Freedom is not free".
Julie is the CEO of a community service organisation and is a member of a number of national and international networks and working groups across areas of justice, education, social services and ecology. Julie lives in Melbourne, Australia with her family.