I Will Be Free

 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
Freedom is an intoxicating word. Freedom is a powerful word. For the individual man or woman, just the notion that what he or she chooses he or she may then do--can anything else even approach this as the epitome of personal power?

Freedom is a seductive word. Who does not desire that power of choice, that power to turn choice into action? Who does not have desires, things one wishes to have, or to experience, or to do?

Freedom is a dangerous word. For while we are free to choose, and therefore free to act, the consequences that arise from our actions we are not free to evade. As certain as it is that when we trip, we fall, that certain it is that when we act, we invite consequence--and not every consequence is good, or to our liking. The foods that delight our senses can ravage our bodies. Imbibe too much wine or whisky and the consequent hangover the next morning is generally unpleasant--and done too often will destroy our physical health. Tobacco brings pleasure to the senses and cancer to the flesh. We may proclaim our freedom to choose these things; we may not ever proclaim freedom from the consequence of our choices.

Yet we are free to choose. We are free to choose indulgence--and therefore we are free to choose restraint. We are free to choose--and therefore we are free to refrain from impulse, and choose with deliberation and with reason. We are free to choose--and therefore we are free to look ahead, look past the immediacy of choice and survey the landscape of consequences, and navigate towards those consequences we deem desirable.

We are free to choose, yet it is only in choosing that we are free. Only when we acknowledge our capacity to select one choice over another, only when we acknowledge that there are alternatives, that the impulse of the moment is not the only option we have, only then can we truly say we are free. Only when we proclaim our power to say "No" are we truly free to say "Yes." Only when we rise above the choice of the moment to a choice of outcome, a choice of consequence, only then are we free--for how can a demand to gratify the impulse of the moment ever count as freedom? If we are not in fact choosing, but merely following, surely that is not freedom.

So it is that freedom is a challenging word. Freedom is in fact a challenge. Freedom demands that we meet our momentary impulses with more than a reflexive gratification. Freedom requires of us that we meet our momentary impulses with a conscious and reflective intellect. Freedom requires that we look past the moment, past the impulse, past even the desire, and choose consequences--and from the selection of desired consequences and preferred outcomes, determine our actions. Freedom demands that we be deliberate, and that we be thoughtful. Freedom requires reason.

Freedom demands courage and it demands discipline. If we choose consequence before determining action, we are liberating ourselves truly, but to preserve that liberation, to maintain that freedom, we must follow through on the action, and we must follow through on all the actions thereafter in order to secure the desired outcome. It matters not how hard an action is, how difficult the course is--whatever the path is, whatever the course is, that is what must be done. We are "free" to choose not to traverse that path, but if we choose to stray from that path we choose to stray from our desired outcome. If we choose a path other than that indicated by the desired outcome, we are choosing to forsake that outcome--we are choosing to fail.

Freedom is not easy.

I am free to choose what I will, but only through deliberation and reason can my choices work to my benefit. Only by differentiating between "I want" and "I need" can I obtain and retain freedom. Only by having the courage to choose a path not because it is easy but because it is right, because it leads towards my goals and not away from them can I ever truly be free.

I am free to choose what I will, but only when I am willing to choose for myself. If I let others choose for me, that is not freedom. If I allow others to restrict my options, I allow them to restrict my freedom. If I am to be free, within myself I must be the master--and if I fail in that, I will most certainly become someone's slave.

I am free to choose what I will, because I am capable of choice. I have reason. I have intellect. I have the power to refuse--and that is what gives me the freedom to accept. I have the strength to walk the difficult path. I have the endurance to see that path to its ultimate ending. Because I have these things, within myself I can be the master, and therefore I never need be anyone's slave.

Freedom is not easy. Freedom is challenging. Freedom is demanding. Freedom is dangerous. 

But freedom is possible. And I will be free.

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