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and wobbles, one needs to start somewhere. I start with the principle of freedom. Without freedom there is only a machine. A machine doesn’t turn me on. First of all, as a basic premise, I believe that we have free will on some level or another. Exactly what level is not all that important. What is important is that at some point we make choices… real choices about what we think, say, and do. And that fact gives meaning to our existence. Second of all, I believe that a principle of freedom on a societal level is the condition that will generally allow the most people to develop into their healthiest and most expansive selves with as few ‘neuroses’ as possible. Neuroses in my opinion are gaps in understanding that develop from inhibiting and suppressing parts of ourselves for the sake of the perceived expectations of society or family or religion or any other type of ‘should’. I believe individuals should freely allow themselves to be who they are at any given moment. I believe there is a ‘guidance’ that comes through to us if we allow ourselves that freedom. If we transcend the ‘imposed’ guidance from religion, society, family, friends etc, then we are left to make our own decisions based on our inner conscience- a guidance that is our own truth, based on our own subtle interaction with the here and now. We each have a conscience that can discern what our truth is and what our deeper purpose is. Without someone else directing our thoughts and actions, we necessarily find the maturity, strength, and judgment to make our own ethical decisions. Freedom demands it of us. Freedom demands personal responsibility. Allowing this freedom to individuals is risky, no doubt. It requires an act of faith on the parts of those involved. It requires risking temporary chaos for the greater principle that freedom yields truth. This risk is contrary to our deep biological and emotional instincts. As survival-seeking beings, humans do not like the concept of others being free enough to hurt them and their chances at genetic reproduction. They are typically happy to manipulate the situation in favor of their survival. Fear is powerful. As emotional beings, humans also don’t usually like taking the risk of freedom with their loved ones. They would rather hold on tight and keep those emotional bonds intact than set the person free to find their truth. Maybe the freed loved one will float away without those bonds. Fear is powerful. People like to control each other. This can also be called manipulation. They do it in many ways. To gain advantage, they use their strength, intelligence, social/ emotional sense, rank or status or whatever other power they have. The most powerful (see ability to manipulate: manipulative) people, in these different ways, get to be leaders of structurally
hierarchical institutions. They lead systems and clubs and societies and religions and cliques and gangs and political parties. These institutions all share the goal of stripping freedom from the individual by establishing shared norms of belief and behavior. They all thrive on codes and rules. So, what’s wrong with codes and rules? Codes and rules take the ‘judgment’ responsibility away from the individual. Without the freedom to make their own judgments about beliefs and behaviors, people lose the meaning of their lives. They move toward becoming simpleton automatons acting out of their desire to be accepted in the group by conforming to the rules and being ‘good boys and girls’. As a result of this ‘outsourcing’ of their judgment to institutions, they end up losing their connection with their inner spiritual guide and their capacity for critical thought. They lose the ‘ownership’ over what they do. They do things ‘because it’s the rule’, not because it was a conscious decision. For the institution, this is a good thing. With enough unquestioning rule followers as members, the big wheel has enough cogs to roll smoothly down the road. But from the perspective of the individual, things are not so optimal. The people who defer their opinions to those of the system end up losing their deep and nuanced identity to a degree. The system provides certain benefits- be they physical (gangs) economic (politics), social (clubs), or even 'spiritual' (religion)- in exchange for the member's allegiance and conformity. Thus, the individual becomes dependent on the system. And because of this dependence, the survival of the system becomes very important to the individual. As a natural psychological result, the individual identifies more and more with this 'beneficent' system, including its rules and unspoken norms of behavior. That person's integrity has been influenced. That person is no longer completely free. Not only does the individual dependent on an institution lose some of their freedom, but they will also be necessarily unfulfilled in the deeper sense. They may be comfortable, but they will pay a high price for such pleasure. The price of membership is that the individual must suppress some of his or her beliefs, traits, thoughts, or behaviors in order to be in step with the codes of the institution. In suppressing these unique expressions of individuality and free will, the person will become necessarily detached from their deepest self, that is, from their unique connection to guidance and purpose, which is the only true fount of fulfillment. Humans need to express themselves and the energy that flows through them in a free manner in order to be truly happy. A human needs to be able to ask ‘why?’ and get the guidance from a deep spiritual place of personal truth, and not from the rulebook of some self-serving institution whose often unspoken or implied ‘response’ is designed to stem the flow of such structurally dangerous questions (see circular reasoning and appeals to ‘faith’) Am I suggesting that everyone who works for a corporation or subscribes to a religion is a corrupted pawn of The Man? No. What I am saying is that one must be aware of the
differing interests and the inherent tradeoffs involved in the dynamics of such relationships if one values freedom in this society. The individual's purest interests are freedom and self-actualization, while the institution's interests are for the individual to conform. The million dollar question that always arises is whether or not people can actually handle freedom. I suppose this is the fundamental inquiry into human nature. That is, are we fundamentally good or evil? Can people act in an ‘adaptive’ manner without the forces of systems and institutions forcing their various colored and wild random shapes into confining grey square holes? This is, of course, not an easy question. It has been a central question in philosophy for a good while now, and I don't claim to have a satisfactory answer. However, I believe we've gone way too far in oppressing and inhibiting the growth and expression of too many people. I see it in the eyes of those victimized by the over-systemization of society. I see the loneliness and separation and anger that has arisen as we categorize each other and let our enemies be dictated to us. I look at a nation who has elected a president based on fear. I believe freedom is the appropriate direction for us to point this spaceship if we want to find out who we are as a species. We will never find our true natures by inhibiting ourselves and our free will. In gradually moving toward hope and freedom and tolerance, we may come to the conclusion that there are people who are best suited for a well-defined and structured environment. And that will be a fine and appropriate free choice to be made voluntarily. I believe that today, too many people are unnecessarily being crammed (or cramming themselves) into thoughtless and confining situations and it is largely inhibiting their growth. We have grown too far apart as people. I believe that freedom is the only way to heal this fragmentation. Freedom unites us in a different way than institutions do. As a free individual, I can tell another free individual, in effect, “I will allow you the freedom to think and act as you please, and I will trust you to make decisions that lead to an ultimately more favorable environment than if we were all following strict and confining rules. And I recognize that a huge part of that favorable environment is my freedom sweet freedom which feels so good and gives meaning to my decisions. And I know that your freedom affects my freedom. So be free my brother, and let’s live with principle and without fear.” And this shared freedom is our bond. Our unity is our shared principle of freedom and our mutual respect and trust in our deepest natures. So that’s the way I’d like to see this big ship steer. Away from institutions and rules, and toward freedom and a chance for true meaning. Not all at once, because we're not ready. If you give total freedom to a person who is not used to critical thinking and decisionmaking, it's like giving a loaded gun to an infant. Freedom demands responsibility and maturity. Baby steps. How does it happen?
Education. Dialogue. Voting. Policy. Creativity. Revolution. We must begin to exercise our freedom to educate ourselves about the forces of control at play in our society and our world. Freedom has to come from the root upward. Corrupted and corrupting systems will not dismantle themselves for the greater good. It has to come from individuals who understand that the principle of freedom for all is the only path to the answering the deepest question, “Who are we?”.
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