Sweet freedom at last …
by Lian Cheng. Posted on July 29, 2012, Sunday
AUSSIE septuagenarian John Henry has finally found his freedom after a 50-year search.
The 71-year-old is sharing his experiences in a 180-page pictorial titled Sweet Freedom: A daring search for freedom, consisting of 840 stunning full colour photos and thought-provoking illustrations.
It’s more than just a book of pictures – it’s also a record of the author’s quest of the true meaning of freedom after traversing the length and breath of Australia.
It was the constant stress and pressure from authorities and establishments that drove Henry to question the existence of freedom and set about looking for it.
“What my wife Jill and I want to do is find out about freedom. Is there such a thing? If so, what is it? Is it the same as happiness? Is it the same as survival? Can anyone truly get away and be free and happy? Or is freedom is just a dream. Are we just kidding ourselves?”
Henry and Jill, former CEO of Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB), sold their business and took the less-travelled road to venture into the wilderness of Australia, hoping that freedom could be found somewhere far away and beyond.
“I looked for freedom among the Australian Aborigines – only to discover they live in reserve areas. Where is their freedom?
“I thought creatures such as kangaroos and crocodiles might have freedom, yet I don’t find freedom in them as they are being hunted by man,” said the man from Down Under.
In his many ventures into the outback, he talked to the magnificent creation of Nature such as the bungle-bungle in full awareness he was only speaking to himself.
“I dialogued with them and they told things about the ancient ways. But mind you, I was only talking to myself. And I saw faces among these ancient structures such as among the bungle-bungle. Yet, perhaps it’s only because that was what I wanted to see,” Henry added.
It was not important whether the seas, the bungle-bungle or the Cobourg really talked to Henry. What was important was he finally found the answer to his quest – freedom is what we make of it.
“Sweet Freedom is in us all for we are all as free as we care to be. Why did we have to journey through the heart of our continent to find what has been in our own heart all the time,” Henry concluded in his book.
Though one of the lucky ones with the luxury to do what he wants, it was not so in his growing up years.
Henry, born in 1940 in Silesia, Germany, and his family were among the millions evicted from their homes and replaced by Poles from the east in 1945.
They were forced to flee to Berlin where for the first three years, he had to stay in a refugee camp. Even after moving out of the camp, life was still tough and education meant extra work after slogging for a full day.
“Life was hard as we had to walk seven to eight km to school which mainly held night classes. I usually got so tired that I slept through the classes,” Henry recalled.
He left for Australia in 1961 seeking greener pastures. It was also there that he started his own business and his search for answers imbedded in his soul.
“There must be another side to life – a life free from physical and spiritual shackles. Freedom – a word on the lips of millions of people. Freedom from oppression, freedom from hunger, freedom from persecution, freedom to think, freedom to act and search, and explore for better understanding to improve the quality of one’s life. A mere dream for most. Our dream is alive. We went to see and learn from reality,” he wrote.
A trip with his family to Australia finally led him to the conclusion of his search for freedom and it was for friendship’s sake that Henry decided to launch his book in Kuching. His Sarawakian friends who made the book possible had requested him to.
Deprived of good education in his young age, Henry tried to make up for it through self-education. Even 68, he still took computer lessons which later proved useful as he was able to use InDesign and Photoshop to lay out and edit his book.
“I started by enrolling for computer lessons. Later, I just picked it up slowly from my young friends in Sarawak during the six years Jill was working for SCB,” he said.
“These friends invited me to launch the book in Kuching first. And because they were the ones who helped make the book possible, I was most willing to do that.”
As for Jill who is married to Henry for 35 years, launching of the book marked a new milestone in their life where a dream has been fulfilled and a mission accomplished.
“The book captures Henry’s sense of questioning and his constant curiosity of what is around the corner. And he is always looking for meaning – like trying to interpret what is important in life and so on. It is really a book he put his heart and soul into,” the former SCB CEO explained.
The book is presently sold at a promotional price of RM150 per copy. After the promotion period, Henry is going to market it through the Amazon and he expects this will double the price.