“Running away is not the same as being free.”

In a TV adaptation of a Philip K Dick’s novel called The Man in the High Castle, we are introduced to a world ruled by the Nazis. It is set in an alternative reality where Germany wins the WWII and Hitler ends up ruling the world. One could not think of a more dreadful setting for a story. One can only imagine the horrors of such a world and surely one wouldn’t want to watch it for fun. But this show surprised me with how hope can exist even in the direst of situations. The characters in this alternative universe live through insufferable conditions of torture and control. Their status is being reduced to that of non-human machines. Every step of their life is guided by dismal fears. However, the protagonist, Juliana Crain is one of the most loveable and awe-inspiring characters ever written. Her strength doesn’t lie only through physical manifestations (she is a trained martial artist) but it has an emotional side as well. This was a refreshing take on the often mono-dimensional, masculine hero who inadvertently saves the world through his rational thoughts and physical prowess.  Juliana Crain is very human in her shared vulnerability and ability to feel emotions. She is well rounded with all her flaws, her failures and mistakes that have grave consequences. Yet, she keeps fighting for what she believes in. She imagines a world free from the Nazi rule and she incessantly works for that dream. Throughout her journey, she is well aware of her insignificant role — she might not even be able to change the world in tangible ways — but she tries nevertheless. There is a twist in the story where a new portal is found to an alternative world (one where the Nazis lose the war). Only people with a special power can travel to the other world. Juliana Crain is one of them. She has an option to escape the inhuman conditions of her reality, but she chooses to stay and fight. When her choice is questioned, she replies with, “Running away is not the same as being free”.  She eventually joins the rebels and fights for the right thing.

We might not be living in a totalitarian regime. But we are very close to that. The world sickens me with its unchecked cruelty and apathy. At times like this, it is easy to lose hope on what matters. Our fragility and vulnerability makes us feel like tiny specks in a grand scheme we have no control over. What difference can we possibly make? At times like this, it’s easier to run away. It’s comforting, even. I’m not talking about a spatial distancing. I am talking about a metaphorical running away, not so much from the place of conflict but from our very mind itself. This state of running away from our very selves is like a figurative “logging out” off our senses so that we sit numbed like rubber ducks.

Our strength lies in embracing our vulnerability, our varied emotions, and our impermanence. Our strength lies in embracing the human in ourselves. Our strength lies in living comfortably with our fragile humanity and act on and for the same humanity in others. For all that to happen, we cannot run away. We have to sit with our emotions without logging out. We have to embrace our tragically small lives. We have to find the long-hidden love that we lost. We have to take the uncomfortably, rocky road of self-discovery. It’s hard but if it means that we could be free in the end, it is worth a try. Courage doesn’t always mean fighting the great battles against tyrants. Courage sometimes means just fighting the disastrous, cruel voice that exists within our mind.

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