I think we were sold a bad bill of goods on freedom when we were growing up.

I think most of us thought freedom meant the ability to run crazy, run wild, do anything and everything without any repercussions or negative effects. When in truth, freedom is the ability to make choices, to have options, to walk down any road, to think for oneself.

To practice a religion that not everyone else practices.

To eat different foods. To buy food anywhere, at any time. To earn as much money as possible – or as little as you need to scrape by.

To live in the city or the country, with the person you love, regardless of gender, belief or religion.

On this, America’s Independence Day, I am reflecting on the meaning of freedom for so many reasons. This summer, I am free from worry and anxiety because I have found a fascinating and true course of study: Vedanta.

I am free because I get up with the dawn to study and I try to reflect at the end of each day to gain objectivity and free myself from attachment to people, to material goods, to drama.

This morning, as my children and I drove past the Huntington Woods parade on our way to the Birmingham Farmers Market, I mentioned how lucky we are to live in a land where have so many freedoms. And I mentioned how much I dislike it when certain populations here in America do not recognize the 4th of July or Thanksgiving because they are not holidays in their own religious tradition.

I won’t trash particular schools or sects here, but many of you know what I’m talking about. Schools that are in session on Thanksgiving and individuals that hide inside when a red-white-and-blue parade goes by. Because it’s not their primary focus, their religion.

But the very fact of living in America is the gift of being able to observe as we choose, without excuse, without penalty. People can leave work in the middle of a normative week because of their self-chosen religious holiday and not lose their jobs. They can not eat at employer functions because the food does not meet their personal religious standards. That’s the freedom of living here – and for that, we should all be grateful.

Tonight, we are joining old friends for the Huntington Woods fireworks and I dare say, fireworks are the best expression of this notion of freedom.

Exploding shapes and paintings of vivid color against a peaceful night sky, as if mere words cannot dare to convey all the passion and emotion we have in the face of being raised on a landscape of supreme freedom.

Enjoy your lakeside celebrations and your barbecues. I will. But keep in mind, we are here and we are as good as we are because we have never had to endure the force of fear that keeps so many people in this world in a cave of ignorance. God Bless America.

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