What do we mean when we say “free?”
“Free” is an adjective, as in “free lunch,” which apparently does not exist, since we are always saying “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” But then we turn around and sing “The best things in life are free.”
Life, existence, is free, but not free like an animal in the wild. Life is a domestic beast of burden laden with many duties and responsibilities.
“Free” is the verb which Lincoln used, famed as one who “freed the slaves,” though some contend that Lincoln had other agendas far removed from the arena of civil rights.
“Free” can be as ambiguous as “love” in the phrase “love of God,” which may mean either our love for God or that love which God expresses or represents. Consider the title of the story of a whale in captivity, “Free Willie” which may be either an attribute or a command.
Freedom is a right in modern societies, a privilege in ancient ones and a movement in era of the 1960s.
Freedom is always a responsibility and a burden, the burden that we MUST choose. When you are not free then all your choices are made for you. In such circumstances your only freedom is your choice of the manner in which you choose to regard your servitude, as Viktor Frankl pointed out.
“Free” was a social status during the time of slavery.
“Free” has a tone of censure when we speak of the “free love” and indulgence of libertines and “loose women.”
What is the difference between “freedom” and “liberty?”
Patrick Henry, famous for saying “Give me liberty or give me death,” quite possibly took “liberties” with some young woman at one time or another. Liberty may be a cause or a statue. Lot was sole pillar of his community and yet Lot’s wife, freed from the fate of Sodom, looked back wistfully and became imprisoned as a pillar of salt. Not every statue is a Statue of Liberty, and the pillars which support our freedom are the statutes of the laws which make society stable. Stables are where beasts of burden rest.
Who or what is truly free?
The freedom of others restricts and limits us.
Even chaos is not free but is plagued by shadow of orderliness which haunts it as shadow haunts objects in sunlight. Consider the difficulties surrounding the METHODS to generate random numbers. They are forever doomed to be pseudo-random, never truly random, truly free.
The matter and energy, of which we are composed, are the least free of all, bound as they are by the inexorable laws of physics.
Lawless faith is always seeking a miracle which defies the laws of nature.
In 2 Kings 20:1-11, Hezekiah had asked Isaiah,
“What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day from now?”
Isaiah answered, “This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?”
“It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.”
Then the prophet Isaiah called upon the LORD, and the LORD made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.
We are free to choose our occupation and livelihood, yet often our occupation chooses us. We are free to pursue only things which are NECESSARY or in demand, that which is REQUIRED.
If we own a store full of merchandise, we are free to give it all away in charity, but we are not always free to charge anything we like. We may sell our hot-dogs for $5 at a baseball game, but we may not price gouge during a time of emergency and crisis, selling food or water or cab service for outrageous, exorbitant prices. Yet, who needs an umbrella when it is not raining?
Jesus, who said “I am the Truth,” also said, “The truth shall make you free.” Yet the most devoted Christians desire for their headstone only the title “Slave of Christ.” There are some slaves who make a handsome living from their servitude.
Wherever we find freedom, we find rules and laws. Perhaps it is the very nuisance of freedom and choice and random chance which brings rules and laws into being.
Freedom has its limitations.
Freedom is a hope.
Freedom is a dream.
Freedom is an illusion.
Freedom is a word in the dictionary, a hefty, ponderous word which enslaves the political in an arduous and exhausting exercise of lip-service.
Now that we have exhausted the possibilities of “Freedom,” we may ask in closing:
“Where is that Lincoln or Jesus who shall ever liberate freedom?”
- written 8-17-2003