I've been called an anarchist, and in the sense that I dislike the forms of coercive controls and authority between adults, I am. I don't really care if you're a worldly success. I don't really care if you're healthy. Though I word things in the sense of pursuing happiness, I don't really care if you're happy.
These are all side effects, not ends of themselves. What I really care about is increasing freedom. With increased freedom we experience, if not more happiness, then more contentment. We may not have any better health or worldly success (though we probably will), but neither will we be as attached to them.
Freedom is always a balancing act between freedom from and freedom to.
The dictionary has several definitions of freedom. These include
- The condition of being free of restraints.
- Liberty of the person from slavery, detention, or oppression.
- Political independence.
- Exemption from the arbitrary exercise of authority in the performance of a specific action; civil liberty: freedom of assembly.
- Exemption from an unpleasant or onerous condition: freedom from want.
- The capacity to exercise choice; free will: We have the freedom to do as we please all afternoon.
- Ease or facility of movement: loose sports clothing, giving the wearer freedom.
- Frankness or boldness; lack of modesty or reserve: the new freedom in movies and novels.
- The right to unrestricted use; full access: was given the freedom of their research facilities.
- The right of enjoying all of the privileges of membership or citizenship: the freedom of the city.
- A right or the power to engage in certain actions without control or interference
Looking at these definitions we can see several examples of freedom from
- freedom from restraints
- freedom from slavery and oppression
- freedom from want
Examples of freedom to include
- freedom of assembly
- freedom to move
- freedom to act
- freedom to choose
In general, I avoid looking at freedom in terms of political action. Political action stems from a desire to change the world. The only really effective way I've seen to create change is in the hearts and minds of individuals. And to be effective in the long term, individual change cannot be coerced. It has to be freely accepted. All political acts are acts of control.
Many of the ways that the words free and freedom are used today are misuses. In economic life free is often used to refer to receiving goods or services at no financial cost. Few, if any of these things are free. For example, we often hear about free ebooks. We go to the web site to look for them. We find that in order to download the ebook, we have to leave our email. You are asked to trade private information for a resource. This isn't free.
Another example is software that has been placed under a GPL type of license. As most people know, software that falls under the GPL is normally free from economic cost and the source code must be available at no economic cost. The cost comes down the line where, if you use GPL software in your coding, your software must also fall under the GPL. If such source code were actually free, it would be placed in the public domain. Instead, the developers would rather control your actions. Under the GPL freedom is another word for control.
The materialists would have us believe that freedom is an illusion, just as is the self. They've taken the Asian concept of karma, deleted the idea of cause, and left everything an effect.
Christians and Muslims aren't much better. According to many Christian sects God preordained who would be saved and who wouldn't as illustrated in the Lord's Prayer.
Lead me not into temptation,
But deliver me from evil.
Islam itself means submission
These, at least leave one act of freedom - the freedom to choose to submit and the freedom to accept the will of God. They strangely forget Genesis, where man is made in the image of God, lacking only self-consciousness (which we gain through eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge) and immortality (the fruit of the tree of life).
All these are wrong. Yes, our choices are conditioned. But we live in neither a purely mechanical universe, a strange holdover from the science of two centuries ago, nor in a universe of predestination.
Freedom is not license. We all live in boxes. The box can be large. It can be small. It will always be there. Our boxes are a result of biology (our perceptions) and our minds (our conceptions). We can, however, make our boxes bigger. We can become more free.
The boxes in which we live are essential. How many games have you played in your life? Have you ever played any without rules? No. And the times when you played and didn't know the rules you found to be frustrating and ultimately less enjoyable than when you did know th rules and were able to choose your moves within their context.
So it is with living. The boxes, however, we largely have built ourselves, and much smaller and more rigid than they need to be. The boxes are the beliefs which we hold. Some we absorbed from our family. Some were drummed into us as we grew up and entered the larger society. We knew no better than to accept them. As we grew yet older, we retained beliefs that were appropriate as a youngster, but were no longer.
One day we reach an age where we look around and see only walls. We find our boxes, our little set of rules that make the game interesting, have become prisons, high walls that keep us from turning to the left or to the right.
That is where books such as Shards, Creating a Better Life, Steve Olson, Evolving Times, Live the Power, and Christine Kane come in. That is where practices such as meditation, visualization, self-education, dream interpretation, out of body travel, and journaling have their place. They allow us to begin to actually look at the walls we've created, and begin to tear them down. The tools of freedom are all around. We have only to choose to use them.