Monday, October 3, 2011

Liberation as a Theme to Explore

When exploring a theme it's important to be brave--to go to both sides of rediculous and back, in order to know where your true foundation is felt.

After riding a bicycle across the country with my partner & lover, exploring the theme of "personal power"--after ego-wars and 80 mile days, after nights in plush hotels and nights on the side of the Interstate, after choosing to take the day off or choosing to fumble through--I know now that personal power is not at all the same as strength.

Power is choice. Power is having the awareness that you are free to choose how you would like to do things now. and now. and NOW. And then using your awareness to decide, to act, to do it.

Power is not always strong. In fact, realizing your power can be extremely vulnerable--a release of control over anything other than your choice and the moment. But it's beautiful and fulfilling because when you make choices for yourself in the moment, you are taking full responsibility for your life. And that's really, truly, the most we can do as individuals. (At least, this is the foundation that I'm working with, after a vast and gory exploration on the subject).

So, what is liberation? I don't know yet. How could I? I must go, full fledge, to both sides of rediculous and back in order to find my foundation.

I'm interested in the intersection of power and liberation. Does personal power (as described above) automatically create a sense of liberation? Is the mere act of remaining in choice the most important ingredient in liberation? My huntches tell me that it matters on an individual level, but that there's more to liberation that just you or me remaining in choice.

My hunch tells me that liberation isn't meant to happen alone, but collectively, as people join forces to free the whole from something that has been chaining it down.

I haven't become completely self-actualized yet (hard to believe, I know ;-), but in becoming more and more empowered and in choice, I notice that remaining in choice doesn't change inequality, corruption, or injustice. It may lead to some personal healing around the matters (which IS important), but it doesn't change societal conditions on a mass scale. (And, damn, wounds that far-reaching are hard to take on alone).

As an assertion of my personal power--my ability to remain in choice and act with full responsibility for my life--I'm choosing to explore liberation--because personal power alone feels negligent and incomplete.

As the African Proverb goes, "A scar on the heart of one is a scar on the heart of all humanity."

There are scars on the heart of humanity and I feel them everywhere I go. My sense of personal power does not change the societal conditions that make daily life much more difficult for many, many people.

Don't get me wrong--I believe that remaining in choice is vital for liberation. If we become people so obsessed with liberation that we enslave ourselves to the movement, forgetting to care for our personal needs, then there's no point.

The point is to care for ourselves and the well-being of the world.

The point is to recognize that our deepest joy is inextricable from the joy of others, the joy of all, the sense that all people are afforded the opportunity to express whatever it is that they need to express. (A-la #OCCUPYWALLSTREET).

What is liberation if not a collective? If not a sustainable flow of expression, by and for, all living things?

I'll be exploring the subject over the next four weeks with Bindu Wiles' Photo Essay Project (#thephotoessayproject). Through photos and thoughts, I'll dig in as deep as I can to the theme of liberation.

You can follow me on twitter at @rachaelmaddox or Instagram at @rachaelmaddox. I'll also be posting photo explorations on tumblr at and more in-depth musings right here at the dearly beloved blog!

This is an introductory. Introductories don't have all the answers and don't come packaged neatly with a bow on top. They wonder. They let wonder lead them. The follow their hunches all the way into the dark and all the way into the light.

I hope you'll come along with me, or explore your own theme.

With a wink and a skip... I'm diving in!

Does the theme of personal and global liberation resonate with you? I'd be thrilled to hear from you in the comments or personal email ( Exciting developments are underway. Stay tuned!

with love,


Jacqui Lofthouse said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your project here Rachael. It's a fantastic theme and I really look forward to reading your posts and continuing to admire your photographs. Very much enjoyed this post. It's been great to meet you via the photoessayproject.

Nasreen said...

I'm looking forward to reading you developing this theme Rachael. I've been thinking about it a lot myself - it seems to be an overarching 2011 theme. Personal power and choice puts us in a position to encourage and recognize liberation, but I think you're right, on a societal scale there needs to be something else, some momentum maybe?