It's my life

Yesterday I saw the film “As it is in heaven” for the second time. The first time was a year ago. The film touched me even more now than the first time, I think I find it the best film I have ever seen (together with “Lilya 4-ever”). A film that can change your life, in the same way as “The Alchemist” from Paolo Coelho can have such an effect.

The film is about people who follow their dreams. Daniel the famous dirigent always wanted – since he was a little child – to open the hearts of other people with music. His manager asks him at the end of his life if he succeeded in realizing his dreams. “Yes I think so”, says Daniel. “But why with particularly these people?”, asks the manager – some random people it seems, idiots, from a tiny village in the Swedish middle of nowhere, a place where “nothing ever happens”. Not with famous musicians with many years of musical education and training, just simple people from the local church choir. “Because I love them”, says Daniel. And then he realizes that he didn’t tell that yet to his beautiful girlfriend Lena, so he leaves the manager alone and runs to her.

And Gabriella who takes her life in her own hands and who no longer accepts that her husband beats her down every time. The weak victim, the little bird that asks: “please don’t hurt me”, becomes a proud strong woman who stands up for herself.

Below is Gabriella’s song – which Daniel wrote for her, and which she, when she has gathered all her courage, decides to sing for the whole village: From now on my life will be mine
I've got only a short time here on Earth
And my longing has led me here
Both what I missed and what I have

This is still the road I've chosen
My confidence far beyond words, has never left me
That confidence shows a little piece
Of the heaven I've never found

I want to feel that I really live
With all the time that I have
I shall live the way I want to
I want to feel that I’m really alive
To know that I'm good enough

I have never forgotten who I was
It was only sleeping for some time
Maybe I have had no freedom
Only the will to exist

I want to live happily, for I am me
To be able to be strong and free
See how night turns into day
I am here and my life is only mine

And the heaven that I thought that existed
I discovered that it is somewhere here
I want to feel that I really live

It is very beautiful and strong. It is very important, the confidence, and that she is good enough the way she is, and that she has never lost herself, only it has been sleeping and now it is waking up. It is important to feel that passion, the desire to really live, to live near all the borders and in the most remote corners of one's life, including all the pain and suffering and including all the love and the most intense happiness. Nobody can take that away from Gabriella. Her man can abuse her and hurt her tremendously. But it is her life, she can do what she wants. She is free to make her own choices. She is free to decide to leave her man. No matter how much the oppression, the suffering, the slavery, the fear; it will always be there: the freedom to make your own choices – even if there is very little that you can choose from – and to stay yourself / to stay true to yourself.

I had to think of an article by a philosopher – Cyril Lansink – in Volzin about the question: “What does it mean to be free?” Lansink says that freedom is usually defined in a negative way, it means there is no oppression, no force, no dependence on others, no restrictions of my freedom. Somebody can say: “I would like to have children, but on the other hand I am afraid that I will loose my freedom too much because of them”.

But freedom means more than this negative definition of not being restricted too much. It also means the positive choice to commit myself to something, to deliberately choose for something. I experience myself as free if I make a convinced choice to say yes or no to something I find on my way. While the negative freedom was aimed at independence, this positive freedom is aimed at a chosen dependence. The things that I want are determined / influenced by my personal background, because of my character I want certain things and other things not. But my personal will is not restricting me in that sense, on the contrary, it’s a necessary condition for me in order to be free, that there is something what I really what, what I can choose for deliberately. In that sense the choice to become a father or mother doesn’t have to mean that my freedom is being restricted. If I really want to have a child, if I long for giving love to my children, caring for them, then I use my freedom when I choose to try to realize my dream to have children. To have children doesn’t mean that I should give up my freedom, it means I am using my freedom of choice.

With this positive freedom I don’t need to maximize the amount of options I can choose between. When I listen to my heart and do as I will, it usually doesn’t mean that I am choosing between an infinite number of options. If I want to marry the person I love, I don’t have to choose between a 100 potential partners to decide to whom I will give my word. I don’t choose my own identity as a consumer in a grocery store, that I would choose between a 100 options for a product which is cheap and which fits with my mood and style at this moment. The way my identity has grown is a result of how my life developed. The choices I make open new ways for me in the future, but they also block roads away which I can no longer choose at a certain age. I can never undo the past. I can divorce from my husband but I cannot undo that I have been married to him.

If there is not much that I can choose between, it doesn’t mean that it is not important what I choose. If I can choose between two things and one is really bad, I have to make sure that that option won’t happen. If it is difficult to reach my dreams, I have to do all I can to get as close to it as possible. To think and feel all the time about what matters most to me, and to make my choices deliberately, is a tool to avoid that my life is living me, instead of that I live my life.
In order to be free, it is necessary that I can say: I want …
It should be me who says that, not somebody else, and it should be my will, not something I am forced into. I should be the master of my will. I should not decide to do something because other people (my parents or my peers) expect that from me, just because I want it myself. And I should not follow my urges automatically, I should be able to steer, to judge my own will. If I am addicted I follow my will (to use drugs), but I am not free. The drugs are not what I really want.

At high school I wrote an essay about the free will for my philosophy lessons. I referred then to the writer Tonke Dragt, who describes a human being as a driver of a trolleybus. The bus is connected to a cord which restricts the driver in his choices of which way he will choose. He cannot drive into a road where there is no cord, so there are many roads that he cannot drive in. But he does still have the steering-wheel in his hands, and sometimes the cords split and then he can choose which way he wants to go. It is important to make these choices deliberately, to remember that the trolleybus is not driving you and just taking you anywhere, but that you are driving the bus yourself. If you look for the splitting points and if you know where you want to go and always go in that direction, you will be free and happy, even if there are very little splitting points on your route and even if you know that you can never reach the place where you really want to be. As long as you are heading in the right direction and as long as you can control the steering.

And somehow I think that there are some things that your heart cannot really long for. The people who want to have a good career, to earn a lot of money, to gain a lot of power, to pretend to be very important, to have a high status, to have many people kneeling down for them, can that really be what their hearts long for mostly?

Especially if these people are all alone, no family, no friends, if others are only interested in them because of their own interests, because these people can help them further in society, and so on. Would it be possible for my heart or anybody else’s heart to be completely happy and healed and full, only because of money, status and power? I think my heart needs love to be happy. My heart longs to help other people, my heart wants to do something good for the world. My heart wants me to spend a lot of time with friends and family, to support each other and to be happy together. If my heart would only be confronted with status and power I would feel very cold inside.

The priest in the film is only looking for power and authority. He plays nasty games to get rid of Daniel because he sees Daniel as a threat to his power and authority. But because of his mean tricks, he looses everything that really mattered to him: he looses his wife and he looses the whole village, his church and everything. That would not have been necessary. If he realized how important his wife was for him, how much he loved her, if he had been good to her, he would not have lost her. And if he had joined Daniel and the village with the choir repetitions, he would have been with them still, they certainly wouldn’t refuse him. But it didn’t make sense to try to pull the village away from Daniel, because they loved him.

It’s very important that we never forget our hearts, that we don’t let them become cold but always listen to what the heart is saying, its desires, what it is longing for. If I follow my heart I can conquer the most difficult obstacles. The circumstances can be terribly difficult, it can be totally impossible to achieve what my heart longs for, but that burning fire of desire in my heart will keep me warm and will keep me moving, and one day, sooner or later, I will arrive there where I wanted to go.

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