Good to be writing again after a hectic March so far. Life’s busy, hey?….even in Hermanus. Following on from Investment, Inspiration and Imagination in our LIFE series, we start with “F” in our acronym. Like Rights have Responsibilities, Freedom has boundaries. Sorry to burst your bubble, especially those of you Baby Boomers who still think the Hippie Age of Drugs, Sex and Rock ‘n Roll has not come to an end. It has! Good, wholesome boundaries accompany Freedom; Granny was always right. So what is this thing every American says they have, every Millennial believes they’re born with and the EFF talk about economically “in their lifetime?”

We turn to the immutable Google and find the condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, think, etc whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited. Of course, it can also be the state of not being in prison. Thus, with my newly-defined sense of Freedom, I wish that certain politicians, executives of Eskom and those of VBS Bank et al, were not free, but prison is not what we have in mind for this blog; the first definition is our focus. Let’s face it, per definition, we’re not free. Your parents ensured that. Your teachers ensured that. Then, and maybe now still, your boss ensured that. As a free Homeloan Junction consultant, your bank manager ensured that. As a partner of anyone, your partner ensured that. So where does this utter idealism come from? Think about it. We have the notion of unrestrained Freedom in our minds and it is certainly something to be striven for – we have often been grateful in this blog for our Freedom of the Press – Freedom always comes with boundaries. Even the Press have their own Ombudsperson to regulate their Freedom to just let off steam and say it like it is, “without fear or favour.” So true Freedom must be something else other than wanton Freedom. What are these boundaries?

1. Laws

You can’t drink and drive. You can’t steal and not be charged. You can’t compete illegally and not expect a reaction. You can’t beat someone and not expect a retaliation then or later. You can’t buy or rent and not pay and when any of these and many other laws, whether we think they’re well-intended or not are not sacrosanct, you have not Freedom, but anarchy. In other words, your Freedom comes into jeopardy. Laws limit Freedom no doubt, but they exist to protect and defend and finally, are there for those who seek justice. How sad it is that State Capture can occur and yet those who committed it, could get away with it for so long? We need an Enquiry as long as the TRC to uncover the evil done by the rich to the poor others, but it will be laws that in the end result in the Freedom to convict and get a conviction or not. Let us hope that justice, another variously defined term, prevails. My imploration to you, the reader, is this: do not lose your hope, even as your Freedom has been attacked by evil, greedy forces, that the laws will prevail and justice will be done to the few for the many.

2. A sense of values

There comes a point in context and time when our values rise above our want for Freedom. Whether that is being pulled aside with 9 glasses of wine in you as you have been exercising your Freedom or, being in a board meeting and biting your tongue to not blurt out the truth [read: “your truth”] about a person or event. We speak then of obedience, sensitivity and confidentiality towards the person or about the matter. We can remember times when we were rightfully constrained to not “tell it like it is” even in the face of provocation. Similarly, values keep our Free hands out of the cookie jar and out of the till, as the saying goes. I put to you that values are boundaries; much-needed and often exercised for our own good.

3. Consideration for others

How easy it is to “let rip and let her have it.” Freedom lets you, but you too may end up in wards 4, 5 and 6 of the nearest hospital 😊 Consideration takes your foot off the pedal even when the road seems quiet, and slows down reaction times to the nanoseconds required to reconsider your behaviour. I often refer to taxi drivers in this context; they can drive me “mad” as well, but I know a company where the taxi driver is treated as a businessman driving his asset for gain. In achieving that, many payments are in advance, well-used vehicles are traded-in in good condition, various benefits are not abused and insurance is drawn on as a last resort, not the thing to be used.

It is an amazingly different approach to business and profitable by design. So, often when I see “those guys” going down the left shoulder of the road, racing along the right “Buses only” lane, I remember that perspective. How would you feel when a significant portion of the 40%+ tax on a litre of fuel goes to pay for corruption? How would you feel when the payment is too big and the month too short to afford it, as you often hear a complaint about Uber? How would you feel when your passengers are concerned about their jobs for being late when Eskom switches off the robots? Consideration for others gives our Freedom boundaries.

4. Common sense

Let’s be logical, “I did it my way” belongs in a song. Your way may be the highway if the people in our seventh paragraph decide your Freedom does not suit them. Common sense tells us that over-stepping boundaries in the pursuit of individual Freedom can have negative consequences.

5. Other boundaries

In his brilliant book, Sapiens, A brief History of Humankind, Professor Yuval Harari posits that there are other kinds of boundaries that enabled global domination by a few colonial countries. Included are: Money, Communism, Capitalism, Imperial Visions, Religion, Nationalism and Culture. These are huge swathes of invisible, but powerful beliefs that have influenced nations to conform within their borders and internationally to super-powers’ whims and fancies. Very interesting reading if you have the inclination, but to the topic, these mega-beliefs are boundaries to our Freedom.

So what is all this talk about non-existent Freedom about? How do we achieve it in our lifetimes? Does it do any good? Freedom exists for us to wish it upon ourselves and others. Nelson Mandela expressed it this way: For to be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. You and I have a right to Freedom but it is also our duty to enhance the Freedom of others. You see, I would go so far as to say that unless we enhance others’ Freedom, we will not ultimately be or become Free. Selfishness is its own inhibitor.

6. Some thoughts about Freedom for our consideration:

  • Freedom is a privilege of the few who are content. On Netflix there is a movie called Minimalist. In it, a range of people who have decided that minimal is more, share their journeys and their new location. For those of us who have been privileged to amass [relatively speaking] many things, minimalism may be anathema. Ouma se kombers, Mom’s broaches, fotos in custard-coloured albums, linen, tapestry, doilies, silverware, books, Singer sewing machines…even clothes. My friend, who has just lost 5 kilograms, was in his Lake Tahoe sweater the other day [like my big yellow jersey with a horse’s head on it that my sister knitted for me in Standard 8] and told us, “I love wearing old things.” Oh really? Lots of those in Hermanus, but he was in Lake Tahoe in the 80’s. You see contentment is Freedom. The Good book says, “Contentment with godliness, is great gain.” It is indeed. Ever seen less well-off people who are really happy? – they have it. Give some thought to the Freedom of contentment in your own life.
  • Freedom is not dependent on circumstances. They help, make no mistake, but they are not your sole determinant of your Freedom. You see, a little earlier I proposed that “Freedom exists for us to wish it upon ourselves” but let’s look a little deeper at this. Anxiety, fear, worry, depression, unhappiness, loneliness, and many other emotions are prisons of the mind. You can be walking along a beach with the sun on your face and the breeze on your back and be racked with worry. Life throws things our way and steals our Freedom, our physical, emotional and spiritual Freedom. As it does and if we let it, the prison door locks behind us and we relinquish our Freedom to that “other thing.” Please, don’t think I’m preaching to you – I know that sound in my own mind and the hopelessness it brings every time. You are not alone but please find someone with whom you can speak your heart out and share the burden. This too will pass; don’t allow these negative emotions to steal your Freedom.
  • Freedom demands that you hold your assets lightly. The simple act of dedicating your children when they are young, is an act of lightening your hold. Your favourite house, your car, your family, your bank account – everything, just hold them lightly. Of course those of you who know me know that I couple this kind of language with my Faith, but I have learned by personal experience and experiences of others, that “assets” are lent not owned. Life does happen while we’re making other plans and those of you who have suffered loss of money, loved ones, health, material possessions and even, peace of mind, know that what we own does not define us for any length of time. Rather, who we are and who we become is the benchmark of a legacy. I officiated at my dear Aunt’s memorial service three weeks ago and informed her son and grandchildren that while she was a matriarch of note and had left them Millions, her legacy would be immortalised in them. Even after her very successful life, her “legacy asset” could only be realised in her children and so it is for many of us. You are truly Free if you hold your assets “lightly.”

I’m going to close this heavy blog for some with lightness. Free people are grateful people. I often say, “Even on a bad day, I’m blessed.” The corny, “When life gives me lemons, I make lemonade” may sound pathetic, but it holds some truth. I may be at my lowest ebb, my health may be waning, relationships may be in the drink, business may be getting harder, assets may be dwindling, the “old days” may be grand in comparison, but here and now there is a silver lining. Not everything is as bad as it seems and some whisper of gratitude is becoming of us. Thankfulness for what I have and have done. Thankfulness for money in the bank, health that remains, people who love me and who I love, a son, daughter or wife who cares and will go out of their way to do so. Be grateful for the many blessings. Put your troubles in perspective and know you’ve [probably] come through worse before. Freedom is Grateful and Gratitude is Freedom.

At HLJ we enjoy our Freedom. Every day is Free. We are free to serve, make choices, help you with choices in your business, free to have associates and friends and business principles. We have earned our Freedom in many respects and stuck it out when the chill winds of adversity stifled us into almost-paralysing doubt, but we survived and Freedom resulted in our business, our attitudes and our sense of Thanks. Thank you for enjoying your own Freedom, but having the good grace to join us in this business as associates and even friends. We appreciate you.

Yours in Property.

Jack Trevena
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