Home > China, Gao Xingjian > Freedom


To be self-activated and to exist for yourself is a freedom that is not external to you. It is within you, and it depends on whether you are aware o f it and consciously exercise it.

Freedom is a look in the eyes, a tone of the voice, and it can be actualized by you, so you are not destitute. Affirming the existence of freedom is like affirming the existence of a thing, like a tree, a plant, or a dewdrop; and for you to exercise this freedom in life is just as irrefutable and authentic.

Freedom is ephemeral; and that instant of that look in your eyes, and that tone of your voice springs from a psychological state, and it is that flash of freedom that you want to capture. To express this in language is to affirm freedom, even if what you write can’t last forever. In the process of writing, freedom is visible and audible, and at the instant of reading, writing and listening, freedom exists in your mode of expression. To be able to obtain that small luxury of freedom of expression and expressive freedom is what it takes to make you happy.

Freedom is not conferred, nor can it be bought, it is your own awareness of life. Such is the beauty of life, and, surely, you savour this freedom just as you savour the ecstasy of sexual love with a wonderful woman.

This freedom can tolerate neither God nor a dictator. To be either of these is not your goal, nor would such a goal be attainable, so rather than wasting your effort, you may as well simply want this bit of freedom.

Instead of saying Buddha is in your heart, it would be better to say that freedom is in your heart. Freedom castigates others. To take into account the approval or appreciation of others, and worse still, to pander to the masses, is to live according to the dictates of others. Thus it is they who are happy, and not you, and it is the end of this freedom of yours.

Freedom takes no account of others and has no need for acceptance by others. It can only be won by transcending the restrictions imposed on you by others. Freedom of expression is also like this.

Freedom can also be manifested in suffering and grief, as long as one does not allow oneself to be crushed by it. Even while immersed in suffering and grief, one can still observe, so there can also be freedom in suffering and grief. You need the freedom to suffer and the freedom to grieve, so that life will be worth living. It is this freedom that brings you happiness and peace.

Gao Xingjian, One Man’s Bible (1998), Chapter XXXV

Categories: China, Gao Xingjian
  1. February 29, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Biswas was right. Not only have you become yo, but a stud level philosopher too who quotes obscure (read great) philosophers! Congratulations!!!

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