Friday, June 10, 2011

The Cost of Freedom (Part 3)

In this series on Freedom, I have sought to establish a link between Responsibility and Freedom. As I understand it, the link is:
The Suffering experienced through Responsibility is the necessary cost to know the Value of our Freedom
Suffering is required for growth in the human experience. This is a topic I've often pondered and have appreciated the insight of Viktor Frankl's; suffering being a central theme in his work Man's Search for Meaning. One would expect then, that he would speak to Freedom as well.

Drawing from his personal experience as a Jew in Nazi concentration camps, he discusses Freedom, especially the inner Freedom that even a prisoner at Auschwitz has access to. Valuing this Freedom "determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstances".
"...Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness [sic]. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibilities. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast." (Pg 134 Mans Search for Meaning)
I am struck by the symbolic wisdom of this proposal. I often ponder what imagery would be evoked by this statue, and wonder about the poem that would be graven on the tablet within the pedestal on which the Statue of Responsibility stands.

Each of us knows our Freedoms are something to be valued, yet how infrequently we the weight in our soul. Nothing short of an external tragedy seems to stir us. However, understanding the cost of Freedom gives us a path to initiate change.

Thinking long and hard about our own Responsibilities is the first step; acting accordingly the second. We know this is a willing choice that will invite suffering. Only then can we taste delight in the Freedoms of life.

Reversely, to have Freedom without valuing it (i.e. to continue on refusing to pay the cost with Responsibility) is to defile Freedom.

I will run through some consequences of decoupling Responsibility from Freedom, using the examples of Freedoms mentioned in Part 1:
  • Journalist disconnected from responsibility results in the press being pitted of constructive value to the society it is supposed to serve.
  • Teenager who takes for granted his privileges will fail to mature as a human being; becoming unruly, demanding, self-centered, ignorant, bitter, spiteful, abusive...
  • Citizen in a democracy who does not value her right to vote will be flippant with this power entrusted to her; if compelled to vote at all it will be in ignorance and driven by selfish motives.
  • Prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp (as with all humans in any situation) who does not value his own inner freedom defies responsibility to his very life; ceasing to acknowledge his own humanity and losing a will to live.
In all of these cases, failing to pay the cost of Freedom through Responsibility is both self destructive and socially destructive.

But why is this such a struggle for us?

The concept of freedom seems to be a paradox when you ask why it does not come freely. But the paradox unravels when you understand the cost of freedom is responsibility. Freedom does not come freely to humanity, because humans are not innately responsible.

Here lies the tragedy of the human experience:

If complete fulfillment of Responsibility hangs out of our reach, than fully realized Freedom is forever out of our grasp - apart from Grace...

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