Passover is here, which means eating matzah, also chocolate and more eggs than usual. This year during the seder one line struck me from our (radically abridged) reading of the Hagaddah: “Today we are slaves; next year may we be free.” It contradicts a note I have taped to my wall as a reminder: “you are free.”
There is this contradiction between feeling free, as in the experience of making choices and free will, and feeling trapped the way we do when fears hem us around, fears that seem both groundless and inevitable in the mental arguments that often accompany them.
There is also a contradiction between the subjective feeling of choice making and the research that shows how easily the human brain can be manipulated through priming of words or images. Even holding a heavier clipboard makes the material attached to the clipboard seem weightier. We are shaped, more than we realize, by the messages with which we are bombarded on a daily basis.
I’m working on a book set in the Soviet Union. Every day I am grateful that we don’t have a gulag. But we are subject to propaganda in the form of spin and in the form of media, which relies on sensation, not reportage, to keep it afloat.
If we are slaves, then who is the master? There are all kinds of conspiracy theories out there, to which I don’t personally subscribe. Perhaps then the master is our own brain, which is so susceptible to cues like the clipboard. Then let us choose our own cues, let us re-write the stories we tell ourselves about what today is worth and what tomorrow may bring. Put the BS on a light clipboard.
May we all be free.