“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose, And nothin’ was all that Bobby left me.”
It’s my favorite line in a Joplin song, and not just because it was written by Kris Kristofferson, the Krissiest Kris who ever did Kris (with apologies to Kris Kross).
I like it because it’s about the paradox of freedom. Having nothing to tie you down – whether it be worldly possessions, responsibilities, or a reputation to live up to – is something that is indeed liberating. Hell, the very concept of “freedom,” regardless of the context, is a state we generally consider positive. Freedom? Why yes, I’ll have some of that. What do you mean there’s a catch?
I was working the Gulf of Mexico on oil rigs, flying helicopters. I’d lost my family to my years of failing as a songwriter. All I had were bills, child support, and grief. And I was about to get fired for not letting 24 hours go between the throttle and the bottle. It looked like I’d trashed my act. But there was something liberating about it. By not having to live up to people’s expectations, I was somehow free.
Sure, freedom’s cool, but you know what’s better? Having something to lose. Not acting like an irresponsible shitbird because you actually care if things go wrong. In life, whether it’s true love or a closet full of limited edition Pokemon figurines, there are things you fought to build and things you’ll die to keep. Nothing to lose? Fuck that shit. I’ll trade you a thousand free tomorrows for one more day with a ball and chain.
Of course, there’s a balance that needs to be struck. Having everything to lose – living a life full of pressure and expectation – isn’t something that I’d consider ideal either. The fishbowl life that celebrities live would be nothing short of a nightmare. When your entire life’s work can be blown up by a single, unsubstantiated rumor, it makes you wonder if you’re better off having nothing and being no one.
And that makes me think of Erevan. His story is not unlike that of a modern day celebrity, wrongly accused but casually convicted by millions of jurors making small talk at the coffee house, the barbershop, the tavern and the dinner table. He was a knight who lived to be perfect and welcomed all the expectations that came with.
And like the old songwriter, when he lost everything he gained his freedom. He’s no longer a prisoner to perfection. As a nameless, wandering knight, he has an opportunity to be the architect of his future. But is that something he considers a positive change? Tomorrow may seem boundless, but part of me wonders if he longs for one more yesterday.