A Note on Freedom (11/21/17)

“Free” choice may be thought of as the limited options that remain to us after the cruder compulsions (that would otherwise choose for us) have gradually but thoroughly been burned away in the fire of experience – or exhausted, which amounts to the same thing. Such compelling (un-free) factors may be natural (instincts) or conventional (directives, duties, moral commandments, laws) or a heady mixture of both. To the extent that a man is identified or psychically merged with these compelling instinctual drives, affects, duties, and directives, his thoughts and actions can scarcely be called “free.” Therefore, what we call “freedom” (of thought or action) begins with our efforts to objectify these compelling factors – to differentiate them from our uncompelled awareness. This wins for us a crucial measure of conscious distance from them by momentarily interrupting or breaking the accustomed state of identification. It is in these moments of quiet, un-compelled detachment from the motors, gears, and driveshaft that normally propel us into and through life that we may be said to experience freedom. Thus, it should be fairly clear that when we speak of freedom what we mean is a freedom from rather than a freedom to. It is much closer to “neti, neti” (“not this, not that”) than to what the uninitiated suppose freedom to be. What they typically imagine is license – the unconstrained liberty to gratify one’s dreams and desires. I understand the path of freedom as a via negativa and not as the attainment of an earthly paradise as a reward for good behavior. But in holding such a view, here in 21st century America, I certainly am a stranger in a strange land.


2 thoughts on “A Note on Freedom (11/21/17)

  1. I fiercely, avidly defend my freedom, but it’s not there. there is no freedom. What freedom I DO have is the freedom of speech, which people so ardently defend in this country by speaking up when offered the opportunity. I mainly REACT. I have my own experience, which is not like that of others, as I have schizophrenia. I have my own experience to describe and I do. Too much talk is not good. Too little is bad. None at all compromises me. Today, everyone is all talking at once. Find your voice and assert yourself enough to satisfy internal drives and outward behavior. Be free of selfish privacy. Open yourself to others without reservation. Be aware of the evil in the world. Try to find some good in yourself. Enjoy your senses, but don’t overindulge. Train your mind in some discipline that is helpful in times of trouble. Help others. Use your best gifts.

    Liked by 1 person

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