While we might think of freedom as the opportunity to do as we please, some say it is the opportunity to do what is right. But, why not do as we please? And, who decides what is right?
Freedom is a deep and compelling need felt by everyone. What is it about us that we feel the longing for freedom at the very core of our being? Why the emotional intensity of these questions?
The awareness of personal freedom is a felt-need, an essential aspect of human consciousness, and we yearn to act on it. The perception of freedom is a human capacity that transcends the physical senses.
Animals are tied unalterably to the requirements of nature, environment, and species; but not people. The horizons of the human mind – perception, introspection, imagination and memory – extend in every direction without apparent limitation.
This is a consciousness that provides us with boundless creative power. Creativity is intrinsic to our character, and together with free will it defines our humanity.
However, the feeling of freedom comes into immediate conflict with the finite limitations of the world around us, and, indeed, with the finiteness of our own being.
We have been given free will and are yet confronted with a physical universe and constrained by the limits of nature and social necessity.
Free will is all about choice. Whatever we choose to do, we could just as well choose not to do. Yet we find free will colliding with the limits and necessities of a finite existence, both physical and social.
Our responses to the challenges of limitation determine the quality and integrity of our lives. The conflict between our capacity for freedom and the world in which we find ourselves has purpose.
Without choice in the encounter with limitation, there could be no morality and no civilized order. Without the capacity for freedom there would be no need for personal responsibility or discipline.
Creativity and productivity require self-conscious discipline. Personal growth and maturity require responsibility, problem-solving, and the tests of hardship.
We understand that the constraints imposed on us by society are mostly necessary, if not always fair, and provide order and predictability in an otherwise chaotic world. The limits of the natural world impose themselves even more exactly.
Yet, we do not feel fully human if we are prevented from seeking our own way. Every limitation chafes against our yearning and our dreams.
As human beings, we possess the distinctive ability to step outside ourselves to perceive ourselves and our relationships in context. So it is that we can recognize and interpret our relationships to family, society, and the physical environment.
Further, we are able to perceive and judge the personal qualities of spirit and character that make us who we are as individuals.
This ability allows us to explore the mysteries and majesties of the human spirit both inwardly and outwardly, such that our personal perspective transcends ourselves and our condition.
When the dimensions of valid action are violated, the errors of pride, self-righteousness and illusory obsessions take control. And in the end, neither our finite qualities as human beings nor the necessities of the world around us will yield to arrogance or poor judgment.
This fact is a given when we enter the world, and it is a unique distinction of the human condition. The collision of free will with necessity defines character and integrity – personally, socially, historically.
Our freedom opens worlds of potentiality to us, but without moral responsibility and discipline it will spell trouble. We must choose: either to accept the reality embedded in the implicate order, or to disrupt the equilibrium and invite disorder.
I submit to you that true justice is determined by an unrelenting order in the world we are given. It is the necessity embedded in the way things are.
Yes, we can violate the boundaries, but only at our peril.