Jan 192011
Statue of Liberty by Kevin Gilmour

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

Yijing Hexagram 60

The Judgment:

Limitation. Success.
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.

The Image:

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.

Lake Louise by Harry Moon

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.

Play by Strocchi

Taking Action

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. :)

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  20 Responses to “The Price of Freedom”

  1. Hi Irving,

    Very thoughtful views on limitations and personal freedom, and the need for responsibility.

    A good example comes when we think of children. Many young people kick out at rules and rebel against any moves to limit what they can do. And it’s not only teenagers, but tots too.

    But, rather than being a disregard for the rules, most times the rebellion is to check where the boundaries are, to test the limits of what is acceptable.

    As much as it doesn’t seem like it when a kid is kicking and screaming when they’re disciplined or told when enough is enough, it lets them no where the lines are drawn. Not enforcing limits does the child no favours in preparing them for adulthood and the understanding of what society expects.

    But, the whole idea is that greater personal freedom comes with limitation, and great acts can come when the boundaries are pushed in new and exiting ways.

    Imagine a balloon… it’s amazing to see it get stretched and filled to its utmost. But, it loses its whole reason for existing when it bursts. Freedom is like that… by all means push it to its limit, but go beyond that, and it’s destroyed.

    (Sorry I’ve not been around for a few weeks- I’ve been rejuvenating on a digital break up until a few days ago ;-) )
    Scott McIntyre recently posted..If Tomorrow Got Cancelled- What Would You Go Do TodayMy Profile

    • Hi Scott,

      Disciplining children is unpleasant, but necessary when we consider the bigger picture. The Chinese have a saying, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” When it comes to discipline and limits with regards to children, we should be objective and instructive at the same time. Only then can children grow to be responsible adults.

      It is true that we have to push at the boundaries to achieve great acts. But we should always bear in mind the bigger picture, the timing and the consequences. That is what responsibility is all about.

      It is good to see you again. I have missed your presence online. :)

  2. Irving, your words resonate so much here with me. The Tuscon shootings were so sad and yet I don’t believe that the punishment fits the crime and it will repeat again. Stricter laws and more severe punishment for those maniacs would indeed limit future repetitions of such horrible events. And taking responsibility for our freedom: I cannot tell you how strongly I believe this, me who had no freedom of any kind when living in Iran. It is only when you have done without it that you learn to cherish it so losing our freedom for just a day may not be such a bad idea. For good or not so good, most people will not be able to imagine what it’s like to be without their freedom and hence it is hard to realize what a golden treasure has been handed to them in life. Let’s hope no one takes freedom for granted.
    Farnoosh recently posted..Yoga Flow Series 7- Finding Strength in Arm BalancesMy Profile

    • Hi Farnoosh,

      Laws and punishments address the symptoms, not the root cause of a person’s behaviour. If a person were indeed a maniac, I doubt laws and punishment would deter them. They would just kill others before killing themselves. I feel it is better to identify and rehabilitate people who slip through the cracks before it is too late. It also helps to make it harder for them to obtain dangerous weapons that could cause a massacre.

      I have read about Iran and its severe oppression, so I can understand where you are coming from with regards to freedom. We can only hope that people need not learn things the hard way and treasure freedom only after they lose it.

      Thank you for your comments! They are indeed rare and a treasure! ;)

      • My dear Irving, perhaps, perhaps not – but I simply don’t think compassion will set a criminal straight and save the victims from harm. It may work for some but others need to be removed from society just like disease needs to be removed from the body for it to heal. Those are my thoughts and remember I lived in Iran – the home to what shall remain unmentioned. As to Iran, it’s a sad saga….In either case, it’s just great to be able to agree or disagree and still talk over things with you. Keep writing your beautiful thoughts and I’ll be back to read more.
        Farnoosh recently posted..Shake Up Your RoutineMy Profile

        • Hi Farnoosh,

          I am not against law and punishments. I am just saying that as far as possible, we should try to save who we can. But for those criminals who are incorrigible then yes, we have little choice but to remove them for the greater good. Your experience in Iran would have caused you to have seen things that most of us would not have.

          Thank you for your comments! :)

  3. Irving, wow. So very very deep. Those of us in the West are so free of choice, and that freedom of choice has led to so many choices that we become imprisoned by them. We have choice overload, so to speak. And yet in stark contrast, we have groups that put SO many limits and judgments on choices that it often leads us to the wrong choice as well – for instance, fundamental religious groups that impose their judgments on sex, race, etc. that it often causes those victimized by them to rise up in crimes against those institutions. Freedom is a very delicate concept. And it raises more questions than it does answers. I could go on to so much more but don’t want to take away from you here. Have a great day!
    Bryan Thompson recently posted..The Rules For Making A Good ImpressionMy Profile

    • Hi Bryan,

      I think it is the age we live in. We are simply spoilt for choices everywhere we look. Without limits, this can cause us great confusion as we struggle to cope with the variety and the possibilities.

      But as you rightly point out, there is the other end of the spectrum, the people who try to limit us to the extreme. As the Yijing says, “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.”

      You’re right. Freedom is a delicate concept, but we have to be clear about it even though it raises more questions than answers. Balance must be found if not, it will only lead to problems if others define that balance for us.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  4. Hi Irving,
    This post is awesome. What happened in Tuscon has been bothering me too. It does indeed make you question the definition of freedom. I love Victor Frankl’s book. It’s one of my favorites. I don’t know why people abuse their freedom and use it in negative ways. I wish I had answers, but I don’t. I know there are more good people in the world than bad. Good will outweigh the bad. Thanks Irving!
    Dandy recently posted..Cognitive Distortions- Win against itMy Profile

    • Hi Dandy,

      I feel that it is easy to take something for granted when you are unaware of its true value. This is probably why some people abuse the freedom they have. Let’s all hope that the world becomes more enlightened in the times to come.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  5. Irving,

    This is an amazing post on freedom and repsonsibility. I find that the middle way is usually the best way although some circumstances may call for an extreme approach on occasion ~ for example, to balance an extreme.

    Discrimination and setting limits is indeed important. We cannot do everything. We need to see where we can make a difference and focus there.

    I am wondering when you speak of “giving into impulse” you are speaking of the shooter. Or a society that has followed their impulses to the extreme creating the ground for events like Tuscon.

    I appreciate your deep thinking.
    Sandra Lee recently posted..Sensing Personal Connection- Kitten StyleMy Profile

    • Hi Sandra,

      Thank you for your compliments!

      I agree with you the middle way is usually best, but some circumstances may call for an extreme approach on occasion. I like to use the phrase “extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.” But once balance is restored, these extreme measures should be put away.

      When I spoke about “giving into impulse” I was referring in general to the need for self-control in all of us. Of your two statements, I would say my line of thinking would naturally extend to a society that has followed their impulses to the extreme, creating the ground for events like Tucson.

      I doubt the shooter was capable of reason when he carried out the shootings. In his mind, he probably believed that what he was doing was right and necessary. But right and wrong, good and bad are subjective labels. The tragedy is that no one was there to stop him before he slipped through the cracks and that he had access to the means to carry out his schemes.

      It is always a pleasure to read your comments! :)

  6. Very great and interesting approach. I appreciated what you said about the connection between freedom and responsibility. It is so true. In order to realize all of our freedom, we have to make certain we are making decisions that are the best we can make at the time and are aligned with the truth we know. Great post and wisdom. Thanks for sharing.
    Sibyl – alternaview recently posted..How to Never Fail AgainMy Profile

    • Hi Sibyl,

      I am glad you enjoyed my article. :)

      It is true, we need to consider the consequences of our actions not just on ourselves, but on those around us as well. Only by being responsible can we hope to preserve our freedom.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

      Irving the Vizier

  7. I share the other commenters’ admiration and respect for this post. You have identified a connection between freedom and responsibility that I, as a lawyer, have considered in a professional context for several decades. One of the biggest problems I see in the US legal system is the shift away from personal accountability. We see this in laws, in tort litigation, and in the insurance industry, among other places. On the social front, we see it in education and parenting. We seem to have a sense of entitlement to a perfect life with unlimited freedom and if we receive something less than that, we find someone or something else to blame.

    One result of this abdication of responsibility is fear, I think. If we give responsibility that is rightfully ours to someone else, we lose control. We become dependent on that other person or entity to give us the freedom we want because the two, as you said, go together. I can’t keep my freedom if I have given away my responsbility. My dependence then creates fear and anxiety.

    Thank you for this thought provoking post, and thanks to previous commenters who added to the discussion.
    Galen Pearl recently posted..Counter BeliefsMy Profile

    • Hi Galen,

      I don’t think this is a problem that the US faces alone. I think everywhere around the world, many people are afraid to take responsibility in anything. There are many compelling reasons for not wanting to take responsibility. But for any of us who know what it is like to take responsibility, it demands courage. This is why it is easier to leave the hard choices to others even if it means giving up our freedom.

      You are right. If we give up responsibility for our lives to others, we will always be dependent on them. We will always be at their mercy. This creates a culture of fear and anxiety, the world we live in today.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments! :)

      Irving the Vizier

  8. Hi Irving,
    This was a very thought provoking article. I do believe that we cannot limit out freedom too much otherwise we’re in danger of becoming more like dictatorships, or totalitarian governments such as China. I do believe we need stricter gun control laws on the books. There is absolutely no reason anyone needs to carry automatic weapons. We also need to vet the buyers of guns and control who is authorized to sell them. They are too easy to obtain which is a big part of the problem.
    Angela Artemis recently posted..Lessons from a Psychic DetectiveMy Profile

    • Hi Angela,

      I agree with you, we need balance in all things, even balance. If we limit freedom too greatly, people will not be truly free. But unlimited freedom is not the answer as well. Given the numerous shooting incidents that have happened, I also think there is a need for stricter gun control laws to reduce the number of needless deaths.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  9. Hi Irving,

    Gee, I think you’ve said it all. No limits here! (Just kidding. ;-))
    It makes me think of something I’ve learned reading Leo Babauta’s recommendations for simplifying. It involves setting limits and like you, I sort of recoil at the idea but am finally acknowledging how important it is. Hard as it is to do (for me, anyway).

    But I thought I’d share an idea from a whole other point of view, too. As I learned more about quantum physics and the way things like Matrix Energetics works, I was introduced to the simple idea that in the zero-point field everything exists as pure potential. However, at the moment it materializes into this 3-D world, almost by definition it acquires limitation. It becomes this, not that. At that point, a choice has been made (at least for that moment). So limitation is a necessary part of our world. Is everything possible? Well, sort of.

    I’ll stop there… just a few thoughts.

    Thanks for the excellent post, as always.
    Patti Foy recently posted..Enhance Your State of Mind in Minutes with This Easy ToolMy Profile

    • Hi Patti,

      I know limits can be hard, but I am sure through trial and error, we can all find limits that work best for us. The thing to remember is not to set limits that are so severe that we cannot breathe. That is not the best way to get things done either.

      I loved the idea that you shared about quantum physics and matrix energetics! It is always good to learn new things or to get exposed to new ideas. I would not pretend to know what you are talking about, but it is true that anything that materializes in this 3-D world has limitations to define it. Once we make a choice, we commit ourselves to one path instead of another and again there are the limits for our chosen path. Everything is possible, but we have to limit ourselves to what we choose.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

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