Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose

Creative Ground’s team just returned from its second creativity retreat.  Our base? The island of Moloka’i, Hawaii.  Number of guests? 6.  Scope of work? Creative practice.  Results? Unparalleled transformation…..for all of us.


Six individuals arrived carrying dark clouds of personal grief, duffel bags of dissatisfaction with work, loaded backpacks of self-doubt, and most challenging of all, clouded mirrors obscuring the truth of who they are.

Seven days later, all six individuals returned home having left the heavy weights behind and carrying instead a clear vision of themselves, their unique essence and life force, and tools for remembering.  This memory of our authentic selves, free of our own as well as others’ projections, is essential for joy, creativity and freedom.

By the end, joy, creativity and freedom reigned.

Like the first retreat held last July, I came away with profound insights about myself and the world.  Two weeks have past, and I can now more clearly see the purpose of creative practice for ourselves and the world.

And it’s all about a new way of playing together.

Because the game we’ve all been playing for millennia is so old and so broken, it’s killing us.   It’s killing us, the natural world and all the creatures who share it with us.  To work, this game has a set of built-in rules or assumptions.  These rules drive and dominate everything — our systems of education, politics, commerce, justice, and healthcare.  And the status quo depends on them.

The rules that are destroying us, ever more quickly these days, are these:

#1: Success = scale and size

Results from playing by this rule: Unsustainable exploitation of human and natural resources.  Global climate change. Planetary collapse.  War.

#2: Punishment and shame stops violence

Results from playing by this rule: Exponential growth in prisons and military expenditures.  More violence.  More fear. More death.  War.

#3: Productive, creative work only happens separate from play

Results from playing by this rule: Work and schooling environments dominated by external motivation and rewards.  High rates of stress-related disease and disorders.  Emphasis on competition and winning.  War.

#4: Life is a zero-sum game

Results from playing by this rule: Massive income disparities.  Race, economic and gender oppression.  Territoriality and control.  War.

All four of these rules lead us to war, war conditioned these days a prerequisite for freedom.  And the war-making machine of our geo-political powers is certifiably out-of-control.  Witness America’s $13 trillion in national debt.  As we continue to play by these rules, war defines our state of existence and shortly thereafter, our non-existence.

So what’s a way forward?

What’s needed right now is for more of us to stop playing by these rules.  Fold up the cards, put away the pool cue, drop the kneepads, throw away the playbook.  It’s time to find a way to play together, to work together, to practice creativity, to collaborate together based on a whole new set of ground rules — ones that honor our humanity, our life, our love, and that operate from brand new paradigms.

New paradigms.  Like success = depth.  Or nurturing, love and learning stops violence.  Or productive, creative work only happens when infused with play.  Or someone else’s gain is also our gain, and someone else’s loss is also our loss.

How about exploring these as possible paradigms that just may lead to radically different outcomes for ourselves and our planet?  In fact, everyone innately knows they will lead to radically different outcomes.  They’re already built into our spiritual consciousness, no matter what religion we do or do not follow.

So what’s stopping us?  Perhaps it’s the belief that “the game” is all there is.  Or that if we stopped playing the game, those with more power and resources might have to share some.  Or that chaos would ensue.  Whatever the fear, it’s time to face it.  And anyone of us can call it.  Call the game and put down the ball.

I call on everyone out there working in government, non-profits, corporations, farms, local communities, homes, wherever you are — those cards you’ve been holding…fold ‘em.  The game can’t continue if only a few are left playing.  If enough of us stop playing, the rules are no longer unchallenged assumptions, but become trade-able ideas.

It’s true that when the game is this old, it’s scary and alienating to stop playing.   But if more of us have the courage to fold those damn cards once and for all, we just might make it, and also discover the truth about freedom.  That is, that freedom comes not from having so much, but instead from the realization we have nothing left to lose.

Lisa Fitzhugh