What Will Make us Free?



"Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality." - James Baldwin

What will make us free?

Not these drones. This endless war. Not gunfights, and bombings, or cabins blazing in the Southern California woods. Not racial profiling. Stop and frisk. Not longer skirts. Or brightly lighted streets. Not keeping children home. Not taking off our shoes in airports.

What will make us free is a different way of looking at each other.

Occupy by @Muschelschloss
Occupy by @Muschelschloss


What will make us free is knowing our own power, from within.


What will make us free is recalling our connection.


What will make us free is feeding one another well.


Laughter. Sharing tears. Telling our stories.


What will make us free is recognizing we are not alone.


We are together: every hip hop teen on every corner; each parent holding a child up to the sun; every redwood tree in canopy and root; each lick of fog; every beetle crawling on the forest floor; each wave carrying sand onto the beaches; every star exploding in its death so far; each grandparent; every teacher; each firefighter; every cop; each CEO; every artist; each person who is hurting; every person who feels joy. We are together.


Only compassion will make us free. Only compassion will make us free. Only compassion will make us free. Never our fear.


Let’s turn this situation upside down.




I wrote this in response to many things: indefinite detention; kill lists; drones; racism; misogyny; the state of the Oakland Police Department; the LAPD; Christopher Dorner; security theater; and this essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates that asks many poignant questions about our state of endless war. Mostly, I wrote it about the way we treat each other, and ourselves.


17 Responses to “What Will Make us Free?”

  1. David Salisbury

    Some mornings I wake up sick to my stomach thinking about how much work needs to be done to make the world just a little better. There is so much to do and such a small amount of the population willing to do it.
    There is a quote from Ingrid Newkirk above my altar that helps me with this: “Each of us cannot do everything, but we can each do something.” Every action helps. Whether its the street activist with a sign, the office worker who calls their Senator on a lunch break, or a dad buying tomatoes from the local community agriculture stand for supper. Compassion can manifest in acts both bold and timid, but its all necessary.

    Thanks for writing this <3

    • Thorn

      David, I agree. Feeling like we have to do it all is a sign our ego is out of balance. That Newkirk quote is perfect. The other thing we forget is that those simple things you speak of make a difference. Not every act needs to feel earth-shaking.

  2. Dakini Uma Amitabha

    It’s the little things that mean the most and have the deepest, longest lasting impact on our collective reality. Love is a subtle whisper, an ease of spirit that brings a sense of peace. Those harsh aspects of life in the world that we are attempting to change are like loud obnoxious bullies in the room that cry out for attention. They can seem so overwhelming, but the truth is they cannot stand against the all-pervasive spirit of Love.

  3. Snooze Hamilton

    Thanx muchly for this.

    With animal rescue fundraising, I tell people “a nickel and a dime and a dollar at a time”. I think a hundred people giving a dollar is sometimes better than one person giving $100, because it means that more people got involved in helping something be better, and realized that “the best you can” doesn’t have to compete with someone else’s “best” to be worthwhile.

    • Thorn

      I think you are right that the more people who contribute, the better. It brings home that interconnectivity that is so important.

  4. Lyssa

    My relationship to compassion came to a head when, after a week of rising emotions and attacks of…grief…from all the physical work I’ve been doing, my partner took me aside and held me told me I needed to be more compassionate with myself. I found myself rattling off a bunch of things in the moment, including, “I’m just not sure how to do that and get anything done! And furthermore, compassion comes from outside, and it’s offered for comfort and ease I can’t do that for me and..” Wait, what? So I am trying to slow down and be aware of this whole external/internal dichotomy and my odd definitions of how compassion may manifest. It’s often easier for me to rise to the challenge for another but to serve myself is difficult. David, your reminder is a good call to attention for examining how compassion acts in the world in all ways. Thanks! (And it really still feels uncomfortable to turn that towards myself. Hmm. Information.)

  5. Kim McDonald

    Last week the kids at my shelter were inspired by a local church’s challenge to get involved in the community. They wanted to give back for all of the generosity they’ve been shown. They are exceeding the challenge and already planning for more. I am in awe that thse children, who have every right to be bitter and jaded, can show such compassion.

  6. John Carosella

    Only compassion will make us free. Only compassion will make us free. Only compassion will make us free.

    Only compassion. And…that’s all it takes.

  7. MaryAnn Jackman

    What makes me free is getting out of my own way and learning to love myself. If I can accept myself as is, I can then be fully open to others. If I attempt this without first accepting and integrating myself, I will be holding back and judging and obstructing the flow of positive energy to others. What makes me free is compassion, but not only for others — also for myself. I has taken me a l,ong time to learn that/.

  8. Tobeimean Peter

    We can’t shirk from fear, but also cannot succumb. Van Gogh said: “No matter how black the devil you must look him in the face. Good as far as it goes, but then we must use what we learn in facing our fear to understand our lives and help others.


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