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The Search for Freedom

Viewed 2231 times 2016-7-9 22:31 |Personal category:Movie|System category:Life| Freedom

So far I have finished watching three fourths of the films in the 2016 Banff Mountain Film Festival. I heard of it some time ago and I'm glad that I have the chance to actually watch it in the theater. I watched people do all sorts of extreme sports: mountain biking, skiing, surfing, kayaking, rock climbing, wingsuiting, base jumping...It became a very emotional experience for me when I saw an adventure photographer spending 4 years and a half trying to take a photo of someone base jumping against an amazing landscape, a son trying to reconnect with his father by bringing his old father back to the Colorado river where he once kayaked, a father teaching his young son to build mountain bike tracks and riding with him, a guy doing parkour in the city and fields as if he had wings on his feet, a few nine-to-fivers attempting a crazy ski trip in a weekend, people breaking out of their mundane life and seeking a lifelong passion, people trying to find a connection to the nature and thus to themselves. I ask myself, why do people find such passion in extreme sports? What makes them so addictive to these sports that they come back for more even in the face of injuries and death? 

I think the answer is manifold. These sports bring us closer to nature, and in nature we learn more about its power and our frailty. We are both humbled and awed at its power and beauty. We realize that the natural forces can easily kill us and at the same time give us chances to do great things. Sometimes we must toil, we must blend into nature to see its real beauty. And it's not just about nature. It's about us and other people too. When we are doing sports we lay down the disguises we normally wear, we become true to ourselves, we discover the things in our heart that we ignored, we push ourselves outside the comfort zone and are excited to see more potentials in us, we form deep relationships with the people that we travel with, that we go through life and death with. In extreme sports we are forced to face our hearts, because we are completely responsible for our choices and decisions. We undergo physical ordeal to gain a stronger heart and confidence in ourselves. We must face our fears, use them and turn them into courage. That's why I often see a streak of craziness in those people, because they always battle with their own fears and in the end their passions and wills always triumph. And sports are often useless. We cannot make money from it. But the most important things in life are often useless in an economic sense. It is the people doing useless things that makes this world a better and more interesting place. 

So what is freedom? So many people I know complain of their jobs, and I see many people online saying they want to quit their job and go travel the world. It seems that quitting the job and travelling the world is the answer. But I always have my doubts about the benefits of travelling the world. Will it just miraculously give you an eureka moment and change your life? Will it make you feel free? I think every one who watched these films will feel inspired in one way or another, but comes tomorrow they will still do what they normally do. In most cases we have to work to support ourselves and our family, we cannot all become pro athletes, we might not even be good at the things we love to do. But I realize that the feeling of lack of freedom does not come from visible restrictions on us. Freedom is not about quitting your job, escaping from your city, or even breaking away from the other people or the society's opinions on you. It is about breaking free of your own restrictions on yourself. You can complain about a life forced on you, but no one can hold you down if you refuse to be held down, and no one can keep you shackled forever if you are determined to break the chains. I, like many other people, tend to have negative thoughts. Whatever idea I come up with, the first things that jump into my mind are "what ifs" and "worst scenarios". I see this mentality often in others too. They always speak of dangers and impossibilities. They don't think others should do anything that they themselves cannot do or don't want to do. We have all been told of what we cannot do one time or another in our lives. But the real danger is not in those negative voices, it is in the negative voice in our own heart that comes from all the restrictions and warnings we received. In a sense, doing sports, especially extreme sports, forces us to challenge ourselves and the negative voice in our heart. Prove others wrong; prove your old self wrong. No one tells you what you can do or what you cannot do. I think that is the ultimate freedom.

I cannot forget the hearty laughter of those people who have just completed something seemingly impossible, the glimmers of light in their eyes. Those are rare things, and in my opinion the reason for our search for freedom.

(Original work by the author Helen; first published on China Daily blog at 22:35 July 9th, 2016)

About Author: Helen, currently a freelance translator in Shanghai. Loves reading and writing and everything related to languages. If you would like to forward or share this blog, please contact the author at

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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