Seatbelt Blues

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Freedom and Being Free: Will to Power or Power to Serve?

I believe that Enlightenment freedom is essentially adversarial; to be free is to assert one's will, which will inevitably lead to conflict where two wills both overlap and disagree. This form of freedom is all about power - I have a will, and freedom is my ability, my power to make that happen. Then, where my will conflicts with your will, one of us will have to assert our will over the other's, thus limiting the other's. It becomes a contest - in order to exercise my freedom, I must exercise power over my opponent, and thus block him from exercising his. I believe this adversarial kind of freedom is primitive, brutal, and essentially dehumanizing.

Our system is set up in such a way as we have established laws and rights that serve as little more than lines in the sand saying "You cannot go any further." But we dislike limitations, so we try to push that line as far as possible, because we percieve it to be a challenge. Our freedom has ended at that point. In a society where the principal question is "how far can I go?" such limits are necessary, lest anarchy.

For instance, in cases like displaying the Ten Commandments on public property, I believe both parties are fundamentally right. The City Countil of Free Country, USA is free to assert it's collective will to erect a Commandments monument (as the first amendment specifically prevents the federal Congress from passing any law "respecting any establishment of religion," so it doesn't apply here). Meanwhile, the offended atheist is free to assert his will that the monument be taken down. The result is a clash of wills, both being essentially right that they are free to do what they have done.

The question needs to be, not "how far can I go?" but "What can I do to be a good person?" I posit that truly human freedom lies in self-donation rather than self-assertion. In this system, we define freedom by service rather than power - my freedom to act lies in my freedom to serve rather than will. This "Law of the Gift" gives us a truly human freedom, where we don't pit power against power and will against will. Instead, we give ourselves to another, and in doing so, in giving our entire selves, in putting ourselves in the hands of another, we break ourselves free from liscentiousness, where our freedom lies only in the pursuit of OUR happiness, rather than in the pursuit of another's.

A freedom defined by service rather than power is a freedom unshackled from our own pure, unbridled wills, and instead grounded in love and responsibility.

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