On Saturday night as I stood at our neighborhood school with my husband and daughter, listening to the kids sing a dizzying array of patriotic songs, one phrase reached out of the crowd and smacked me right across the face. It was a familiar one, from the Himno Patriótico del 15 de Setiembre: “Sepamos ser libres.” Let us know how to be free. But it struck me differently now than it ever had before.
In the context of the song, written by Juan F. Ferraz, it’s more of a rallying cry. That’s how it’s usually used in Costa Rica, as in, “Don’t forget that you’re free. No one is the boss of us.” But somehow on Saturday, I realized it could also be more of a prayer. Let us know how to be free. May we somehow learn how to carry this figurative torch we have been handed.
I don’t know about you, but I get a boost from the idea that while hatred, greed and just plain stupidity are certainly behind many of the problems in our societies, maybe we as a people aren’t necessarily bad. We just don’t know what we’re doing. We haven’t lost anything irreparably, not when those of us who do remember better times for our freedoms or our democracies had probably been dealt a winning hand in terms of race, gender or sexual orientation. I tell my daughter almost every day not to get frustrated because she’s still learning how to do something, that it’s a process. Democracy is harder than whistling or tying our shoes, so we are still screwing it up after hundreds of years. But despite it all, here we are, many of us anyway, learning, paying attention, still praying: may we know how to be free. (Is this just something I’m telling myself to feel better? Doesn’t prayer sometimes fall into that category? Isn’t it worth it, if it helps us keep going? Is this too deep for a Monday?)
I want to end with a concrete question for you: how do you approach being free, in the specific instance of your information intake? To you, does being free in today’s world mean making sure you spend enough time isolated from the terrifying events around us so that you are still free to think and breathe? Does it mean cultivating the freedom that comes from full mastery of the facts, and staying informed so you are free to respond to anything or person who comes at you? Do you somehow achieve both, and can you show me your ways? I struggle with this and would love to hear from you.
I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook!