The Meaning of Freedom with Sebastian Junger

Freedom is a hot topic in 2021 as the pandemic continues to challenge everything we thought we knew. Author Sebastian Junger digs deep into the concept of freedom and how all of human history has contributed to the value of freedom today.

Sebastian Junger is an award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author. His books include: A Death in Belmont, Fire, The Perfect Storm, Tribe, and War.

After reporting on the war in eastern Afghanistan, Sebastian shifted to making documentaries about American soldiers and their stories. His debut film, Restrepo received an Academy Award nomination, and he won the Grand Jury Prize for the film at Sundance.

After spending years traveling across the country and around the world, Sebastian started a family, and he began to see many of the things he’d experienced in life through a different lens.

The mundane nature of family life, in contrast to the drive and ambition of a young person gives him a unique perspective on the question of freedom and what it means to live a full life. Pieces of life that once made less sense suddenly come into focus.

In our interview, he explains that the comfort of his family “allows for me to love in the most profound, powerful, beautiful way possible. I didn’t know there were feelings like this.” He reflects on his time in Africa during the Liberian civil war how he witnessed parents’ terror about what might happen to their children.

He experienced a similar moment of clarity in his life when he almost died due to an aneurysm that burst, causing him to lose 90% of his blood. He talks about the vulnerability of life and compares it to the vulnerability of freedom.

What does freedom mean to you? Is it amassing enough money that you don’t have to worry about financial hardships? Or is it having no money so that you’re not tied to the rat race of modern society? Or most likely, somewhere in between.

Sebastian’s words and anecdotes show how we are all connected throughout the human experience as he dives deep into the human condition. His book Freedom does a beautiful job of drawing lines between relationships, community and freedom.

Highlights from our conversation:

  • Hardship and love pair together to make a very meaningful life. Hardship challenges us to come together, and love gives us a sense of purpose.
  • An important part of a community is the idea that giving is more powerful than receiving. When any given group strives to give more than they take, there is an increase in success.
  • Our modern society is highly segmented and challenges the idea of community – children sleeping in separate bedrooms to homes and neighborhoods being segmented.
  • Many people feel a disconnect from their family or community. They don’t feel like active members in the groups they associate with because of segmentation.


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