Is Freedom the Pursuit of Happiness? The Boston Public Library Liberty Tree

amybucherphd.comI was wandering through the Boston Public Library‘s main branch at Copley Square (a truly enchanted building) when I stumbled across an interactive exhibit to accompany their current exhibit about the Revolutionary War. The exhibit is called The Liberty Tree, and is a human-sized framework covered in visitor-created paper leaves describing different definitions of liberty. The library explains:

The Liberty Tree was a real elm tree that once stood on the corner of today’s Essex and Washington Streets in Boston. Colonists gathered there to protest what they felt were unjust taxes imposed on them by the British Parliament in the years leading up to the American Revolution. Other towns in the American colonies also adopted their own liberty trees, and they became a symbol of protest against British rule. Visitors are invited to join the conversation and share personal responses to the question “What does liberty mean to you?” 

Create your own liberty leaf
Create your own liberty leaf
The Boston Public Library Liberty Tree
The Boston Public Library Liberty Tree

What stuck with me about the exhibit (aside from its striking beauty, not adequately captured in my photos) was how many of the leaves described liberty in terms of authenticity and the ability to be true to oneself:

20150910_120710 20150910_120724 20150910_120732 20150910_120639 20150910_120615 20150910_120602 20150910_120608 20150910_120624 20150910_120718Of course, authenticity was not the only theme. Some visitors visited ideas of national sovereignty, religious freedom, or celebrations of their visit to Boston. But the frequency with which authenticity repeats on the tree as a definition of liberty is evidence that self-understanding and loyalty are part of a happy life.

What does liberty mean to you? Does authenticity and being true to yourself play a part?