“Free” as the Next Horizon in Radical Philosophy

by  John Stahl
June, 2004

      How can anything be free?  Any cynic will tell you that there is no free lunch.  No free lunch?  The cynic only sees the color of his own money.  I remember attending the 30th anniversary of the Summer of Love – a free concert in Golden Gate Park in 1997.  I had a wonderful time.  The sun was shining, and almost everyone seemed to be as happy as myself.  And you didn’t even have to wait for the big name bands to come on – if you have never heard the Ancient Future band (Matthew Montfort and friends) that played there as an opener, you missed a very good show.  I still can’t understand why they are practically unknown – they are even Marin county locals.  If anyone’s booking gigs, look them up – they’re incredible.  

      But any time I passed an acquaintance of mine – a very talented artist who was set up with his paintings, trying to sell his artwork – he would fuss and fume darkly about how it’s all over now, Baby Blue – “It’s all about Money, now!  No more peace and love!  Humbug, Humbug!  ‘Summer of Love’ !  Ha!  It’s all just about Money, now!  Humbug, Humbug.”  I thought this was pretty surprising – I guess he wasn’t selling too many paintings, but what does he mean “it’s all about Money”?  He was the one out there just trying to sell his paintings – all the rest of us were just out there having fun!  The concert was even free, so what was his point?  I wandered around the grounds, high on life . . . , but every time I entered his space, the sky was dark and gloomy.  

      Free is very radical, and always has been.  There is a famous story of a man standing on a street corner handing out twenty dollar bills (they could have been fives or hundreds, or maybe the story is entirely apocryphal, but it doesn’t matter).  Sooner or later he was arrested.  I don’t remember the charge!  

      Free is not easy!  I was so sad to see all the idealistic youth in the 60’s getting trashed and taken advantage of – they wanted to be free, and for a brief time we all shared a space where everything was totally free and easy, and we all loved everyone.  – But then, those who figured that “there was one born every minute,” and that they were born to take them, converged on the scene and burned all those beautiful souls until everyone figured that “Peace and Love” was all just an illusion.  

      No, it’s not an illusion, but it isn’t easy, either.  It only really works (at least, as a lifestyle) in communities of like minded individuals.  But it is possible to spread the concept further and further, in small ways, here and there.  For example, you can be a fully dedicated Sadhu and give away all your possessions, and live a life of pure light.  This is not an easy path, but it can be done – I have seen it.  I will give two examples.  I met a young man of radiant light hitch-hiking, and I invited him to stay with us for a while.  He had nothing but the clothes on his back, not even shoes.  – But he was amazing.  He was always out and around, and he kept bringing back free food.  There are fruit trees everywhere with fruits and nuts just dropping on the ground, rotting away, which he would gather and bring to us (I don’t mean the rotten ones!).  There were edible foods in forests and in vacant lots which he would bring to share with us.  He was so friendly and helpful that he was always welcome.  He would come and go, and we were always glad to see him return.  

      I met another young man at an international rainbow gathering in Slovenia.  Once again, he was penniless and barefoot.  I was familiar with American “drainbows” who crash every party, eat all the food, smoke all the dope, trash the place, and steal whatever they can as they leave.  Not fun.  But this man was totally different.  I saw him always working – cooking, carrying water, building – just contributing his energies from a place overflowing with love.  He was distinctly welcome everywhere!  

      But you don’t have to have this total commitment in order to savor the joys of Free – it is possible to dip your toe in the water in many ways.  For instance, some people are cynical about “free concerts.”  Don’t we know how much money it costs to put on a concert?  How do we expect musicians to live if we expect them to perform for free?  Yet a successful musician can perform at an evening concert hall at regular rates, and still play for free at a Free Concert in the Park.  The key is that not everything you do has to be measured in money — at least not all the time.  You can just give your energy away for free here and there in small doses, and discover the magic and the joy of it.  In careful doses, giving your energies away for free can be very rewarding.  It can even be a coldly calculated financial gimmick (“they give you this, you pay for that”).   (But that’s not what I’m talking about.)

      If you start out in small ways, you may find that it is easier and easier to offer your energy and your love, even your possessions, for free.  It is a very liberating experience to do this.  It is most “liberating” when it is not just a concealed trade.  When you give something with the expectation that you will be given something of equal or greater value in return, that is useless.  But help someone who is in no position to give anything back, and you will feel yourself growing lighter (no pun intended!) — as you grow in spiritual grace, your feet will never touch the ground.

      Giving free is a radical philosophy because it runs counter to the way the dominant world is set up.  Once people start giving their love away for free, it exerts a real power for radical change.  The internet is a great example.  I think it is so funny to see all these sites trying to make money by charging people to visit the site!  It just doesn’t work because so many people are happy to offer their sites for free!  Why pay money when you can get the same service for free?  

      Once more and more people join the Free bandwagon, then it is possible to contemplate a real surge in spiritual growth world-wide.  It is kind of a conspiracy!  Are you in?  Let go, little by little, and discover the Freedom and the Joy that comes from just living in Freedom.  Soon more and more people will “get it” and start to do the same thing.  Soon there will be plenty of places in the world where you will be welcome “for free.”  Of course, you will “freely” help out, wherever you are, so everyone benefits.  Finally, the Kingdom of God will come on Earth, and everything and everyone will be Free.  


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