The frame of freedom
We consider that freedom is about doing everything that comes to our mind. This definition is wrong because absolute freedom doesn't exist. To begin with we have to keep our body alive. We are required to satisfy its need to avoid dying. Then we live in society in order to survive better. We know that one person's freedom ends where another's begins. If each one was constantly acting as one wishes, our species would face extinction very soon. So how to simply define our area of freedom? As it si a conceptual problem, it is better to take a look at matter to find analogies.
Let's watch nature.
The fruit is hangs from a tree thanks a piece of branch. It can swing freely under that tie.
We are stuck to earth by gravity. We are free to come and go above or under the surface of the planet, no matter the part of our body that is supported by it.
Birds need a support to move freely. Their feet can bounce on the ground, their feather can make them float on water, their wings can lean against the wind.
The falling leaf is hindered by air before lying on the ground. It swirls according to the currents and its own shape.
The celestial bodies are held on their orbits by tremendous forces. They paths and rotations are keenly tuned by the laws of physics.
Nothing moves in void. All animated or inanimated being exercise they freedom within a frame made of a base tie and operating rules.
Freedom is the set of movements allowed by the rules around the tie in a given frame.
The various frames of our life are side by side, superimposed, nested, so as to form complex settings on a large scale.
Unaware people consider ties as bondages and look forward to break free from any rule. Instead of chasing a hypothetical absolute freedom, it is more realistic to identify the frame which offer the most freedom.
The tie must be strong in order to fully confide in moves. If it is likely to break then we are feel unsafe. The rules must be flexible to avoid hampering our movements. A glance at the news is enough to see that this pattern applies wether we ar aware of it or not.
Authoritarian leaders for instance are successful in many places in the world. They implement unfair laws and imprison as they wish, yet victory awaits them in the polls. Being gripped by an iron fist make people feel reassured, it fosters the sense of freedom. It is not a paradox. A little child who is trying to walk, makes hesitating moves. But if you hold his hand he becomes more daring. The hands is a protection against the painful fall therefore he takes more risks. Within the frame of learning, the parental hand is the tie, the rules are those of gravity and balance. The more the hand is firm, the more free the child is to explore the rules to their extreme limits. It seems like insecurity cripples us in spite of wealth because populations demand arbitrary systems to feel free into the national frame, at the expense of personal and social frames.
Another instance strikes me. We know that pharmaceutical labs are enterprises like the others, profit is their only reason to be. As our health doesn't matter to them, sanitary scandals are frequent. Yet people cling to them. If the frame is health then the tie is our own body, the rule is physical well-being, freedom is huge but also risky and lonely. We are the only ones to be responsible for he choices we make. Fear for illness is so strong that most people shrink their frame. What prevails is not to be healthy but to find the right medecine. When no chemical product provides the expected healing or when one of them happens to be harmful, they put pressure on the labs to be satisfied. They fight the frame to make it fit for their needs, without wondering if there are others more relevant and less binding.
These two examples show the perverse effect of a bad definition of freedom. Being completely free from ties and rules is a pure concept, it's an abstraction that only exist in our head. In real life nothing nor anyone can move without a frame. Even our thoughts are framed. The tie is the brain which must be in operable condition. Our mental creations are regulated by our emotions. What terrifies us will be stopped before it reaches our awareness. What delights us will come endlessly in all shapes and colors. What obsesses us will come over against our will. Knowledge feeds our thoughts, ignorance starves them. No frame, no existence. Such void reminds us of the anguish for death.
Etienne de La Boetie has perfectly describe this astounding phenomenon, people tend to multiply the bonds to feel reassured. They grip on enterprises, political parties, ideologies, religions, spiritual masters, gods, celebrities, social status, TV programs, social networks or even concepts like economy or finance. Of course we need frames to live but locking ourselves inside to the point of ruining our life is opposite to the intended goal, for freedom enables to discover thus unfolding oneself. In order to be free we must be able to assess the extent of the freedom provided by our frames. As human being evolves in time, yesterday's spacious palace can turn into tomorrow's narrow jail. We must remain free to switch frames according to our current needs.
Things are not as simple in the modern world though. There is a frame that locks humans into the fear for the future, the perversion of excess or the misery of lacking. It has become necessary in time. It is money. It has hijacked the link that binds us to nature. Indeed it allows or prevents us to satisfy our primary needs. The rules are simple, we must grab as much as we can by any mean, we must spend it to have the right to live.
This economical tool which was initially designed to ease barter has become a weapon of massive affliction, a shackle that no one can escape. Trading natural processes for a human system is a dangerous game, we are paying a high price for this. Humans fight to death in this foolish competition aiming at an impossible never ending growth. Such frame is not sustainable, it can only collapse in the long term.