The writer and wandering traveler Isabelle Eberhardt was an extraordinary woman. The remains of her book Dans l’Ombre Chaude de l’Islam – In the Hot Shade of Islam (salvaged from a flash flood that killed the young author) was once called “one of the strangest human documents that a woman has given to the world.” In her early twenties, Eberhardt wrote the following:
Vagrancy is deliverance and life on the open road is the essence of freedom. To have the courage to smash the chains with which modern life has weighted us (under the pretext that it was offering us more liberty), then to take up the symbolic stick and get out! To one who understands the value and the delectable flavor of solitary freedom (for no one is free who is not alone) leaving is the bravest and finest act of all.
Most of us can feel sympathy with Eberhardt’s words and admire her courage, especially considering the fact that she wrote them sometime around 1900. Who has not felt (at some point) the desire to “smash the chains” and set out on the open road? Perhaps when we are young, this can be the bravest and finest act of all. But as we grow older, the act of fleeing is often neither brave nor fine.
Looking toward the life of Jesus, we discover that true bravery is to defend our liberty even when being denounced by others, to honor our conscience regardless of the consequences, and to embrace our independence while others toe the line. In other words, to remain free even when we are not alone. The true essence of freedom is defined not by the depth of our solitude but by how well it stands up to the crowd.
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To read about Jesus’ second coming and the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky, please go to: Jesus & The Grand Inquisitor.