(About a 5 minute read)
Within a few minutes, she had come back from her bedroom, had crossed the kitchen floor, climbed onto the table near me, sat herself down facing me, and drawn her knees up to her chin — all the while freshly nude: Angela, a stranger of no more than a few hours acquaintance, had just unnerved me, a middle-aged man, who had never once in his life conceived of such free spirited familiarity before.
I was about 40 years old, and Angela was the first free spirit I had ever known. Or rather let me say she was the first free spirit who I ever allowed myself to know well enough that I recognized her as one.
How often do we instinctively shy away from people almost the moment we meet them — the moment we see them as “not our types”? Before Angela, that had been me when it came to relatively free spirited people. Like so many of us still do, I had my skittish reservations about such people.
For one thing, I did not see them as so much being authentic to themselves, as I saw them as putting on a false face of all-too-pointed (and pointless) non-conformity. As it turned out, I had no actual evidence of that — I was just conforming my opinions to the opinions of other people that I had now and then heard. Go figure!
In truth I believe I have discovered that authenticity — the act of being true to oneself — is more characteristic and key to what makes someone a “free spirit” than any other single thing.
And authenticity can be found in anyone from society’s homeless to society’s most honored individuals. Yet, to any great degree, authenticity is rare. Always rarer than conformity. As Oscar Wilde put it:
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
I think most of us ironically find authenticity more attractive in other people than in ourselves. To be around a unusually authentic person can be for some us the first time in our lives we really appreciate — really grasp the reality of — “inner human beauty”.
Certainly, it can be the first time inner beauty strikes us with the force of something physical.
Perhaps somehow related to that sense or feeling of beauty is the fact that to be around a unusually authentic person is often to be energized, perhaps even to feel like a fully charged battery aching to be plugged into something — just aching to make something happen. And yet — that feeling doesn’t usually carry over past the next sleep. At least not in my experience, nor in my observations of others.
For some reason, most of us seem to reject being “too” authentic ourselves. And that might explain why a common regret of people who are near death is that they have not been true enough to themselves. In fact it was the number one regret of the people who Bonnie Ware nursed in the last weeks of their lives.
Yet perhaps more of us would work to be authentic if we knew how beautiful that could make us seem to many other folks — albeit not to the current president, nor apparently to his sort of people.
Is it possible to be free spirited in an unhealthy way? Well I think it could be argued that our president sets quite an example of that. At least he seems pathologically unburdened of most sensible restraints.
Let’s turn now to four myths about free spirited people.
First, the myth that free spirits are simply relatively unrestrained people. I hope I have already made clear my belief that is not true. The sin qua non of a free spirit in my opinion is authenticity — being true to themselves — rather than simply being unrestrained. In fact, I believe — for example — one can see our president as more unrestrained than authentic, as less a free spirit than someone who bounces like a loose cannon off the opinions of other people.
Second, the myth that free spirits are always especially creative. As it happens, some of the most free spirited people are only of average creativity. I suppose creativity might help, but it seems non-essential.
Next, the notion that free spirits are less rational than the rest of us. Without attempting any flattery here — but solely for the sake of illustration — I think if you were to study my “About You” page on this blog you would be impressed both by how free spirited and rational are several — maybe most — of the respondents. At least I fancy the better liars among my readers are such, for what a peculiar thing it would be if someone as deeply twisted as to frequent Café Philos also genuinely possessed a virtue or two?
Last, the notion that free spirits are necessarily enlightened. Sadly, I do not think that is true, although I am near certain the converse is true — genuinely enlightened people are free spirited people.
So I have now insufferably inflicted upon you, my beloved readers, my admittedly alarming notions about the myths and realities of being free spirited. But what have I left out? What further realities are there? And what further myths? Beyond that, why do you suppose so few of us are free spirited?
Your turn now. All comments appreciated, even from appalling free spirtis, such as Teresums.