Few nights ago, I started reading Gulliver’s Travels to my son. It’s a classic and I just love the passion of adventure that Gulliver had which made him explore the places where no other ordinary man had went. One incident in the book particularly caught my attention, which I probably would never have given enough notice to when I read the book in my childhood.
When Gulliver is captured by the Lilliputians and put in the Temple, the tiny people cut the threads that they had used to tie him and instead they tie his legs with 1000 chains so that he cannot break free and harm the people of Lilliput. He longed for freedom to move freely but still he was happy and contented because finally he was able to get up and stretch.
Is that it? Is that how we are living our lives? Amidst all the chains that bind us, we somehow develop a feeling of contentment because we are unable to break the chains. Bigger the chain, we get more space to move around, smaller the chain, we get less freedom. Nevertheless, we adapt, adjust and keep wishing of freedom that we may or may not have.
So what are these chains, you don’t see people walking around with chains on their legs. The chains that bound us are our relations, our responsibilities, our morals and a deep sense of foreboding that if we ever break those chains then hell will break loose and everything will be destroyed.
One would think that as we grow older, the number of chains binding us will reduce but actually they multiply. At first you are just a baby without even knowing who your mother or father is. You have the most freedom because although you cannot talk or walk, you are not attached to anyone. As you grow older, relations get attached to you – you become someone’s child, someone’s niece/nephew, someone’s friend, someone’s brother/sister, someone’s student, someone’s neighbor, etc. The list can go on and on depending on your lifestyle and relatives. Each of these relations put a chain on your leg so that your movement becomes restricted. Even a relation as weak as that of a neighbor puts a chain, think about it, when you step out of the house, you worry about what will neighbor say about your clothes or if you are late then what will neighbor think about your character. Depending on your relation, the chain is either big or small but it’s there nevertheless, guiding our life, telling us what we can do and what we cannot.
In fact the most precious relation that you have in your life is with your own child that comes with the smallest chain (least freedom). You cannot smoke in front of the kid because he/she can get bad habit (which the kid will do eventually when they grow old nothing to do with the fact whether they saw you doing or not). You cannot party late because your child will also demand to stay late outside (which he/she will do eventually and you won’t be able to stop them). We end up curtailing literally everything including using swear words in front of the kid only to be disappointed in them when they grow up because all the things you stopped yourself from doing in front of them, they have picked up from God knows where. Honestly, I feel this is the chain that we end up putting on our own and is not required to be so small. But well what can you say, welcome to parenting in millennial.
My ideal are the monks who leave everything and go away for a spiritual search of their soul because they are actually the ones who realize that these chains are suffocating and in order to breathe free air they need to break free from these chains. Now breaking all the chains is practically impossible for materialist beings like us who cannot just leave everything and go in search of soul. However, in order to live a little happily we should learn to try and cut the chains 1 by 1, starting from the longest chains that are unnecessary but it’s around our legs because we never had the guts to cut it.
Eventually Gulliver also got his freedom and he was able to leave Lilliput only to end up in the land of Giants but that’s a story for another time. For now at least let’s try and free us from these little bonds and live with more freedom. What’s the first chain you would be breaking?