Before You Decide to Quit: The Difference Between ‘Freedom from’ and ‘Freedom for’

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Illustration by Laurene Boglio.

Films and books urge us to think that there will come certain moments in our lives when, if we can make some grand, once-in-a-lifetime gesture of relinquishment, or of standing up for a certain principle—if we can throw in our job and head off, leave the safe life with a woman that we do not love and, as it were, come out—then we will be liberated, free.

Moments—crises—like these are crucial to the cinema or theatre where psychological turmoil has to be externalized and compressed. Dramatically speaking what happens after moments such as these is unimportant even though the drama continues afterwards, with the consequences of these sudden lurches beyond the quotidian.

Up until then the question is what are you freeing yourself from; the real question, however, as Nietzsche points out… is free for  what?

—Geoff Dyer, Out of Sheer Rage

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