Most people are aware of the tragedy of the Tucson shootings that has marred the start of 2011. But such shootings are not a one-off thing. This is unlikely to be the last shooting that we will see. As I read Sandra Lee’s article, it reminded me of the heavy price that comes with freedom.
In this day and age, we have endless choices and possibilities that those before us did not. It is true that freedom is not uniform across the world. Some countries have more freedom than others do. Yet freedom taken to the extreme can only result in tragedies. In fact, anything taken to the extreme can lead to problems. As such, I wish to share two sources which I feel sheds light on the price of freedom.
The Need for Limits
Galling limitation must not be persevered in.
Limitations are troublesome, but they are effective. If we live economically in normal times, we are prepared for times of want. To be sparing saves us from humiliation. Limitations are also indispensable in the regulation of world conditions. In nature there are fixed limits for summer and winter, day and night, and these limits give the year its meaning. In the same way, economy, by setting fixed limits upon expenditures, acts to preserve property and prevent injury to the people. But in limitation we must observe due measure. If a man should seek to impose galling limitations upon his own nature, it would be injurious. And if he should go too far in imposing limitations on others, they would rebel. Therefore it is necessary to set limits even upon limitation.
Water over lake: the image of LIMITATION.
Thus the superior man
Creates number and measure,
And examines the nature of virtue and correct conduct.
A lake is something limited. Water is inexhaustible. A lake can contain only a definite amount of the infinite quantity of water; this is its peculiarity. In human life too the individual achieves significance through discrimination and the setting of limits. Therefore what concerns us here is the problem of clearly defining these discriminations, which are, so to speak, the backbone of morality. Unlimited possibilities are not suited to man; if they existed, his life would only dissolve in the boundless. To become strong, a man’s life needs the limitations ordained by duty and voluntarily accepted. The individual attains significance as a free spirit only by surrounding himself with these limitations and by determining for himself what his duty is.
I have always kept this saying close to my heart. Even though I personally dislike limitations of any sort, I know they are necessary. A man who gives in to his every impulse, who lacks self-control is not truly free. Although we have endless choices today, not all of those choices are beneficial for us. To be truly free, we must have control and know how to choose. A person who chooses to overeat at every possible opportunity may enjoy himself in the short run. But in the long run, he will face health problems and obesity. Every one of us needs limits to lead a good life. The key is to find that balance because extremes in any area of life will only lead to problems in the end.
Freedom and Responsibility
“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. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast should be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.” -Viktor Frankl
I love Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. Its lessons and has shaped my views in a profound way. I believe that there are insights to gain from suffering and adversity. Of course, I would never wish this on anyone. But for those who are able to endure and who manage to rise above it, it pays to listen to the wisdom they have acquired. This is especially so for someone like Frankl who has seen unspeakable horrors in concentration camps during the holocaust.
When I read this book many years ago, I was looking for meaning in life. But that passage above has always stayed at the back of my mind. It was probably waiting for a time when I would be ready to address the important lesson it carried. In fact, it ties in nicely with Hexagram 60. Freedom is not something we can take for granted. Taken to the extreme, it is easy to abuse our freedom in a way that can lead to its loss. Unless we learn to balance liberty and responsibility, we will have a hard time preserving our freedom.
The Price of Freedom
Each one of us makes choices that can have far-reaching consequences. Responsibility therefore, is not just something that the common people should bear in mind. It is even more important for those who wield great power and influence. This is simply because their actions can have a large impact on many lives. Finally, society as a whole must consider the effect that their actions have as a whole on people, countries and the Earth. Uncle Ben knew his stuff when he said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Not all actions have long-term consequences. As such, it is easy for us to forget to act responsibly. Even if we will not suffer from the results of our actions today, we must never forget that our children and grandchildren will have to pay the price. We cannot turn a blind eye to what comes after us. It is our responsibility and the price of our freedom to think of the consequences of our actions. If we only stopped to reflect on the impact of our actions and decisions, we could all make better choices.
The price of freedom is responsibility. If we are not willing to take responsibility for our freedom, we will pay for it with tragedy and loss. Even if we are lucky enough to escape the consequences of our actions, someone else will have to pay the price. And that someone else could well be our very descendants who will inherit this world. In the end, we have to seek balance in all things. Nothing that is extreme can last for long. If each of us realizes the price that comes with freedom, we will be able to find that balance between liberty and responsibility and make the world a better place.
What are your views on freedom? What are your views about responsibility? What can we do to manage better? Do share your thoughts and comments below.