The interdependence of freedom and responsibility is elemental. Knowing this allows us to live our lives with integrity. It informs us of the contours of justice. And yet rational thinking alone cannot determine the foundations for justice.
So it is that agreement on a framework for a just and livable environment is the first order of business for every functional community, large or small.
Living and working together as neighbors depends on a shared understanding of justice—an understanding embodied in a consensual moral consciousness.
Secure communities depend on this. And it is a condition we can only arrive at by means of dialog and consultation.
Making morals and making community are, it has been said, a single mutually dependent process.
We all have ideas about what is right and good, but where do our ideas come from? Do we make them up from scratch?
The capacity of the mind to conceive and envision personal freedom hints that self-assurance should rightfully be ours. Yet, a finite world imposes limits on our freedom even as society depends on moral responsibility.
We are aware of the ease with which we can slip into error, over-stepping the bounds of honesty and integrity in little everyday ways.
To protect ourselves from error, both great and small, we need to see with our own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and to think independently with our own minds.
Many are resistant to recognizing the boundaries between justice and injustice, goodness and evil. But make no mistake: Every human being is endowed with this ability.
Whatever our religious faith or philosophical belief system, the independent investigation of truth is our first responsibility.
Each of us is vulnerable to the error of transgressing the boundaries of freedom and finiteness that safeguard equilibrium in the world. We each tread a rocky path strewn with obstacles.
My greatest concern, which I hope you might share, is the powerful influence of strong-willed, overconfident individuals who often appear in the midst of crises, and who will want you to follow them.
We must resist the seductiveness of self-appointed “leaders”. This is my warning to you.
Such people will surely appear, claiming to love liberty when in fact they are its greatest enemies. Please be prepared to maintain your independence.
The human spirit knows no bounds. Yet, the conflict between freedom and the boundaries of justice is as harsh as it is inevitable. This is a fact of life that defines the human condition.
Given the extraordinary human capacity for perception and imagination, we often stretch the limits with painful consequences.
Worse, it can be easy to imagine ourselves possessed of unique wisdom or exceptional qualities. The past has been punctuated with great delusions.
So it is that we must understand purpose in the finite limits of being, and find responsible means for putting it to work.
Finiteness is a structural characteristic of the universe. All physical form is defined by limits, as it must be to serve its’ function.
This is the nature of physical reality and the functional ground of human freedom. The social order in a civilized society serves a similar purpose. These are givens.
It is the inherent dependability of this truth that allows us to launch ourselves into new frontiers of learning and experience, to control the direction of our efforts, to instigate, organize, create.
Without structural limits, (which include our own moral values), we would have no capacity to direct our energy and intelligence, to explore new ideas or undertake new ventures.
For the individual, the ability to exercise discipline defeats the limitations imposed by nature and society.
The discipline to leverage our inspiration against the constraints we encounter provides the power to actualize our freedom and transcend the material difficulties in our lives.
We cannot leap without a firm foundation beneath our feet; we cannot fly without wings.
Discipline and limitation are, indeed, the ground of freedom.
You may watch for the next post on or about July 15.
Several additional chapters from the forthcoming book have been added (in draft) at the top of the homepage.