Wednesday, July 13, 2011

well, I’ve been here, stressing over a word I—along with most of my countrymen, I’ll wager—have taken for granted for the past, forever…”freedom.” what is “freedom?” try it, it’s not as easy as first it seems, I’m telling you! I asked bruce (the husband) to define it, and he said, “well, if I had REAL FREEDOM, then I wouldn’t have to stop for stop signs or lights (we were in the car driving, at that moment) so there’s no such thing as total freedom.” One thing I realized, listening to him, was that most people seem to identify it by its negatives…no, you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theatre!
So then we still need a definition—what is it, and where does it end? I’ve been told that my freedom ends at the tip of your nose. What do you think? I think that saying came from the days when many people smoked, but it’s true today as well…as long as you don’t hurt me, you’re pretty well free to do as you please—in this country…which means we're not free to choose whether or not to stop at lights and stop signs. sorry, bruce!
Walt and I saw a story on TV about a town in the  south called Liberty, run by the KKK well that should’ve been a clue—liberty? who do you think the country is run by? the people?  usually, places with pretty names like “the people’s republic” and the “democratic people’s whatever…”  are mighty poetic on the outside, and potentially rotting at the center.…Well, I was wondering, liberty for whom? It made me think about how often we define certain words of this kind according to our viewpoints, while we turn around and take away the freedom of those who disagree with us.  oh, well! that’s only human…part of believing what WE think is, de facto, right—otherwise, why would we believe it? where we get messed up is in having no patience for anyone else’s beliefs…which goes back to how we’re raised. I don’t think jesus ever taught that…I’m thinking about the Christians who want—even expect—the freedom to put the Bible in school libraries, and they talk as if prohibiting it would be evidence of the moral death of our country…But meanwhile, they’ll fight tooth and nail to keep out the Book of Mormon!
this topic has so many little rivers and lakes to explore...…the only freedom I personally could come up with that everyone, anyone, anywhere may have is the freedom to “THINK.” even in prison, you may lie in a meadow of heather by a beautiful mountain stream, and dream and dream...nobody can stop you…that’s POWER!
but I’ve left until the end, a powerful song from the 70s musical SHENANDOAH—which gives us a few things to think about before writing our own thoughts…please read and then join the polylogue:
“Freedom”  from the musical Shenandoah 1975
Music by Gary Geld
Lyrics by Peter Udell

Freedom ain't a state like Maine or Virginia
Freedom ain't across some county line
Freedom is a flame that burns within ya
Freedom's in the state of mind

(Chorus) Freedom, freedom,  Freedom, freedom
Freedom is a flame that burns within ya
Freedom's in the state of mind

Freedom ain't a boat that's leaving without ya
Freedom ain't a place ya float to find
Freedom's in the how ya think about ya
Freedom's in the state of mind

(Chorus) You can't get to freedom by riding on a train
The only way to freedom is right on through your brain

Freedom is a notion sweeping the nation
Freedom is the right of all mankind
Freedom is a body's imagination
Freedom is a state of mind
Freedom, freedom   Freedom, freedom
Freedom is a notion sweeping the nation
Freedom is a body's imagination
Freedom is a full-time occupation
Freedom's in the state of mind

13 comments:

Frank Nemec said...

Some good definitions from The Wisdom of History, a course from The Teaching Company:

Freedom takes three forms: national freedom, political freedom, and individual freedom.
A. National freedom is the freedom of an entity—a nation, even a tribe—to be independent of foreign control.
B. Political freedom includes the right to vote, to participate in the assembly, and to have a fair trial.
C. Individual freedom, the freedom to live as you choose as long as you harm no one else, includes freedom of thought and speech, as well as economic and religious freedom.

The course also makes clear that, contrary to typical American belief, freedom is not a universal value. Even now, many peoples are quite content with neither political nor individual freedom.

From the Rim of the Box said...

Thanks Frank. This is an interesting analysis and compilation of definitions.
You mention the many peoples around the world who "are quite content with neither political nor individual freedom." I suppose if we'd never had those kinds of freedoms, we also might not even imagine they could exist. The thing is that the world has become so small that it's hard now to find a corner of the world where they haven't seen freedom in operation on their little electronic gadgets of some sort. Hence all the uprisings everywhere in countries where totalitarianism has reigned for so long. Hmm...Ethel

Paul Yin said...

I’ve been reading the opening chapter of Is There a Meaning in This Text by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. He was quoting some who would argue that the meaning of words can be quite fluid. I tend to agree to some level that I believe the meaning of our words needs to come from some context. To me, freedom is when my son finally finishes school and gets out of the house. I remember when we’ve first started the Iraqi War, former President Bush defended his plan to establish a democratic government there as some criticized that the culture of Islam and democracy contradict each other in nature. Bush said something like he did not believe that there is someone who does not need freedom. I listened to that and thought he was speaking from a western perspective while he was largely unfamiliar with the theocratic mindset of middle eastern culture. I was talking to a young girl at work the other day. This young lady is from India. She told me the first time she met her husband was on their wedding night. I could still remember her excitement as she was telling me that story. I wonder how we should discuss the freedom of love with this young lady. My last thought on this subject for the night comes from a quote from What Good is God? by Philip Yancey. In a chapter about his experience with the people from Alcoholic Anonymous, he explains the 12-step program can be nailed down with two points: radical transparent and radical dependent. As he concludes on the second point, he said:
“As the Twelve Steps express so well, that process involves a constant reliance on God and on others. Paradoxically, we best realize our freedom through dependence.”
What do you think?

Jane Carlile Baker said...

Freedom - Words that are true and say something worth saying are hard to write. The best freedom is relating to God. After that, everything else falls into place. So even the prisoner or the abused child or ... can find freedom without leaving their circumstances. Maybe things don't happen the way we expect, but as we get past them a ways, we often can tell what was going on. Freedom isn't about circumstances.

From the Rim of the Box said...

wow! i look at these very heavy duty pieces, and i'm thinking, in paraphrase, of a wonderful old joke, where frank sees a beautiful cloud formation in the sky and describes the image he sees in it, of venus de milo, and paul sees in the cloud, the majesty of the ceiling of the sistine chapel...and me, well...i see a horsie and a doggie!! this is quite a discussion i've wandered into...i can only add to it the quote i found that brings it to my level of discussion, and hope someone will talk to me! PEOPLE DEMAND FREEDOM OF SPEECH AS A COMPENSATION FOR FREEDOM OF THOUGHT, WHICH THEY SELDOM USE.
soren kierkegaard
hey, it's a great discussion! keep it up...ellen

From the Rim of the Box said...

Thanks for your good comments, Paul and Jane.I can tell you are using what Hercule Poirot calls your little gray cells. That's kind of what we wanted here.
You are reminding us of a pretty basic truth that in lots of ways freedom is one of life's greatest paradoxes. No freedom without a framework of rules and responsibilities. No freedom without dependence on others. No freedom without respect for the needs and comforts-- and freedoms of others.
BTW Jane, could you elaborate a bit on what you mean by freedom relating to God?
Thanks again to you all for making this discussion happen.
Enjoy!
Ethel

From the Rim of the Box said...

"...WE BEST REALIZE OUR FREEDOM THROUGH DEPENDENCE..."

i keep coming back to paul's Yancey-quote. it's so interesting, but what in the world does it mean? it seems like christian responses and non-christian responses go off in two totally different directions...a spoken dependence on god seems to be part of the freedom experience for christians--at least the ones who're here.

for me, freedom is just like it says in the song in our posting.."Freedom is a flame that burns within ya Freedom's in the state of mind."

All of freedom is in your head, and it's the one place nobody can touch--ever, in any way. you can think bad thoughts, good thoughts, or no thoughts at all...you can think the most unpopular thought known to the world...i could become the very first female president!! if that's not freedom, tell me what is...and it is stark POWER!! (I HOPE I USE IT FOR GOOD!)
ellen

Paul Yin said...

I love your cloud metaphor, Ellen. It reminds me of a comic strip from Charlie Brown. Now, since I’m the one who read Yancey’s book, let me try to answer your question of what his quote means. When he says “we best realize our freedom through dependence”, the immediate context refers to freedom from repeated destructive behaviors of alcoholic addiction. And, here are my two cents of the night. Often, we tend to romanticize the notion of freedom as a condition that has no bindings, no obligations, or no boundaries. In that world, we can do or say whatever we want. But I don’t think that world ever existed. Although I’m not bound by alcoholic addiction, I’m bound by many of my relationships, my love for my wife and son, my sense of responsibility to my work, or my pledge of allegiance to my God. Ah, in that sense, even my God is not totally free, is he? He is bound by his love for us. He has to come to reach out to us, because that’s who he is. And now, I have to follow him, because that's what I’ve become. Yes, freedom is in the state of mind. We want freedom from tyranny. (Mandela came to mind, but I’ll save that for later.) But we also put our freedom down for something else. A young girl from work recently confided with me that she’s absolutely frightened to find out that she’s pregnant because she’ll lose her freedom. She couldn’t even have that beer she wanted. But talk to any mother who has fallen head over heel in love with her child and she would tell you “Who wants freedom?” “You want to exchange my baby with a beer? Are you kidding?”

From the Rim of the Box said...

PAUL SAID: I love your cloud metaphor, Ellen. It reminds me of a comic strip from Charlie Brown—I THINK THAT IS WHERE THE ORIGINAL CAME FROM! let me try to answer your question of what his quote means. When he says “we best realize our freedom through dependence”, the immediate context refers to freedom from repeated destructive behaviors of alcoholic addiction. WHAT STRIKES ME HERE, PAUL, IS THE IRONY OF SAYING “FREEDOM FROM …DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR,” WHEN, IN FACT, I’M QUOTING ANONYMOUS WHEN I SAY, “IF YOU ARE NOT FREE TO CHOOSE WRONGLY AND IRRESPNSIBLY, YOU ARE NOT FREE AT ALL!”
CARING FOR AND ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR FAMILY; THE “BINDINGS” OF LOVE THAT EXIST BETWEEN YOU AND GOD…LOOKING FROM AN OBJECTIVE OUTSIDE VIEW THESE ARE ROMANTICIZED NOTIONS OF FREEDOM. BY NO MEANS DOES IT MEAN THAT THEY DON’T REALLY EXIST OR THEY’RE NOT REALLY IMPORTANT…I JUST MEAN THEY ARE OBJECTS OF CHOICE. YOU MAY TAKE ON THAT RESPONSIBILTY OR YOU MAY NOT…YOU MAY TAKE ON A FAMILY AND IGNORE THEM ENTIRELY, AND TAKE AND TAKE, OR ABANDON THEM…YOU HAVE A CHOICE. AND HOW YOU SEE AND FEEL ABOUT GOD, THE SAME…HOW HE FEELS ABOUT YOU HAS BEEN A MATTER OF DISCUSSION BETWEEN ETHEL AND ME FOR THE PAST 11 YEARS…IF AND WHEN YOU WANT TO GO THERE, I’M GAME! LET ME JUST SAY THIS MUCH--YOU SAY: …even my God is not totally free, is he? He is bound by his love for us. He has to come to reach out to us, because that’s who he is. FOR ME, YES, HE IS—TOTALLY FREE—AND IN THIS WE COME TO THE FORK IN THE ROAD…

Paul Yin said...

A lot has happened since the last comment. I'm still trying to make sense out of what recently happened in Norway. Just when we thought things are quieting down..... Anyhow, I've just finished reading Generation Freedom by Bruce Feiler. This book is about the Middle East Uprisings. The author tells many untold stories about the Egyptian revolution. I must say it almost makes me feel that I have usurped the right from those brave young men and women to talk about freedom - even when I'm just engaging this subject in a philosophical discussion. If you're a reader, I highly recommend it.

From the Rim of the Box said...

I sort of feel like this, no matter what the news has to say about other countries around the world. We have everything here, and therefore it is easy for us to talk philosophically about freedom and values and a zillion other things. We can talk about hunger and nutrition and indulge ourselves in all that is needed to maintain the best of health, while much of the world is starving.
It's kind of like I felt for a number of months that I almost had no right to talk about being brave with cancer because I hadn't suffered anything from either the disease or my treatments. Two months of radiation enabled me to begin to feel it, and I'm amazed how it has tenderized my heart-- which I thought was already tender.

From the Rim of the Box said...

we’re living in a fascinating time, historically, aren’t we? I wonder what it will look like from the perspective of 150 years, give or take? much as we examine our own civil war—which it appears, by the way, that we’re still fighting in many places, in many ways; (don’t get me started on THAT!)

I don’t think you’ve usurped any rights by validating what the Egyptian and other freedom fighters are doing. you’re basically saying, as we may have “back in the day,” of our revolution… “right on, brother!!” it’s awfully hard to give up power, once you have it, and moving to a democratic society from a one-man rule is nearly impossible. lots of dead bodies between one and the other. but sadly, that’s freedom’s cost—on a national scale.

of course, hopefully, you only need to do that once…there are those who would come and remove your freedoms—freedom to worship, freedom to congregate, freedom of speech, freedom to make a living and to earn money in your own way (as long as you do not violate the ‘end of my nose’ rule.) male or female, you are free in all these ways, and more I cannot think of…and not only have you not usurped the right to speak of these things, paul, you MUST keep speaking of them, until everyone is listening and talking, also….anyone who is trying to climb to their freedom needs to know that the world is watching and caring, and praying, and wants to help… it’s amazing to me that we’re living in such an historical moment…

efc

bcbeb966-d1fb-11e0-bb3d-000bcdcb8a73 said...

Growing up, I learned the way to maneuver the journey of life was the middle of the road which meant to play it safe, don't ruffle any feathers, mind your own business, work, & pay your bills. To read, "Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides," doesn't compute.

As an adult, I've learned that what's important is to stand up for what I believe & be willing to pay the consequences. I read recently, "I'd rather be ashes than dust. I'd rather my spark burn out than that it should be stifled by dry rot. The proper function of my life is to live, not exist. So I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use every moment."
(Author unknown)

While it's obvious our definition of middle of the road is different, our conclusions are the same - acting on & voting our conscience.

Thank you for your insights,
Sherry Cox