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Post no. 37 (Free?)

July 29, 2010

I can be quite stubborn at times. One of the things I really hate is being told what not to do. I’ll co-operate with “Take your shoes off when you come in from the garden”  but it’s a huge internal struggle to follow “Don’t come in with those muddy shoes.” I’m not the confrontational sort, though. I’ll walk back out to the garden and figure a way to walk in without taking off my shoes.

When I’m spending time with Julian I assume he has the same dislikes as I do. I tell him to “Stand  away from the television” rather than “Don’t stand so close.”  This afternoon I took him for a short walk.You know how kids are – buzzing all over the place, stopping when you’d rather they didn’t and running off when you’d want them to wait, etc.

At one point he fought tooth and claw to make me let go of his hand. It was a busy road. An image came to me of him breaking free and toddling (he is a toddler, after all) straight into the path of an oncoming car. I gripped harder and he fought like his life depended on it …

The incident set me thinking.

Julian’s only means of staying safe is to hold my hand, or allow me to hold his. He doesn’t realise that his wishes can lead to his “undoing”.  If I weren’t holding Julian’s hand chances are he would have hurt himself.

Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Julian doesn’t want to hurt himself. This means that if he were free to choose he wouldn’t want to let go of my hand because he knows that to do so would greatly increase the possibility of him hurting. I’ll even take it a step further. If I were to let him go, he’d still walk by my side of his own free will (and, to infuse this piece with a sense of poetic justice, he’d reach out to hold my hand 😉 ) My point is this: by holding his hand, i.e. holding him “captive” by his standards, I was helping him in his aim to not hurt himself (remember the starting assumption that Julian does not want to get hurt). Had he been in full possession of the facts he would have reached the same conclusion, viz. his only way of staying safe is to hold my hand, or at least walk close by.

The next question is obvious to the more astute readers – if there are any readers to begin with 😉 – if I know Julian’s ultimate goal and restrain him when I see him doing something that obviously goes against his intended goal, am I allowing him his freedom?

In my banal example – albeit true – it appears that  the degree of freedom you enjoy is directly proportional to  the amount and quality of information you have. If I want to set up a business and I don’t know the first thing about money I’ll be severely hampered in achieving my goal. I think that following this line it is logical to say that only the person who knows everything can ever be perfectly free. This person would know all the possible outcomes from a given course and choose the path that leads to the perfect outcome. Could this mean that, along the way, the person would have to do something he does not really want to do? Knowing everything, he’d have known that that was the way to go in order to achieve his goal, i.e. the prefect outcome. Can you say that the person was not free?

I would say that being free is the ability to choose the state and/or place in which you’d want to be permanently. After a day’s work there’s nothing like going home, kicking your shoes off and sipping a beer while reading a good book. Minor snag: on the way home from work there’s a small stretch of road that you absolutely hate. Do you stay at work to avoid the road, or do you grin and bear it, keeping in mind the ultimate prize waiting for you at home?

What if sitting at home sipping beer and reading a book were heaven? And the trip home from work were life? If I knew the magnificence of the state of existence after this life, would I be put off by that dismal stretch of road?

*oh well*


From → Misfires

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