The words free and freedom come up often in our political debate and our church sermons. People obviously desire freedom because they speak of it so often and so passionately. But what does freedom really mean? Freedom from what?
In conjunction with the incessant talk of freedom we hear of the necessity to be vigilant, to protect our freedom. We are called upon to be on the alert for subversive elements who plot to take freedom away. Concurrently, we are admonished to support freedom by being patriotic, by embracing American exceptionalism, and by honoring military service.
In all these discussions, the terminologies remain vague and largely unexplored. In addition to freedom, what does patriotism imply and what makes
In considering the words in the title, one could conclude that freedom comes exclusively to those who are willing to fight for it. That is a common opinion with a longstanding history. The implied sub-message is that freedom is never enjoyed by the physically weak, timid, or politically uninformed. The fearless are not afraid to rise up and eliminate whatever they perceive as threatening.
Still, even if you take this understanding of fearless as the route to freedom, we need to know when we are free, what freedom means. Free from what, again? On the one hand, freedom means not under external restraint. In an absolute sense that would indicate lawlessness. I doubt, many interpret freedom in that way.
In trying to drill down and understand the prevailing understanding of freedom, I encounter the implied need to be secure in person and property. I want to be safe. I want my family to be safe. I want my property to be protected. In a large measure, our society looks to human government to provide that security. In effect, the worship of freedom distills to a cry for security, to be free of the need to fear. This is a slightly different meaning to the word "fearless". Freedom becomes almost synonymous with security of various types in this scenario.
Ironically in the current political controversies, we witness a second, contradistinctive, use of the word freedom, one which does imply eliminating restraints. The irony comes about because this use of the word freedom almost always carries the idea that I need less restraint, while others need more. It is not a message of universal freedom, but rather a call for freedom to promote self interest. These calls for freedom are simply an effort to control others and rarely anything noble.
My own interpretation of the title is this: Only those who manage to give up fear can be truly free. By this definition, freedom is a decision to live fearlessly, but not by fighting and destroying all that I perceive as fearful. That is impossible and would too easily justify monstrous actions on my part. I can never becomes fearless by managing all my life circumstances; that should be obvious. There are just too many bad, painful circumstances in life, many of which derive from unknown sources which cannot be destroyed.
So, how could anyone ever be fearless? Under the normal mindset, fearlessness and therefore freedom would be unattainable. I believe the only possible answer to this conundrum would be to embrace a new view of that which is painful, as preposterous as that may seem. Certainly, the fear of experiencing pain is itself painful; it magnifies our pain in effect. It works that way for me, at least.
Is it possible to experience pain and not fear simultaneously? Must pain also eliminate freedom by causing fear and insecurity? Some people deal with pain and adversity much better than I do, and I marvel at it. How do they manage to do so? Somehow in the act of acceptance and perseverance, these people achieve a kind of fearlessness that escapes me. I take these extraordinary people as the example to the world of the route of freedom in fearlessness. I can't explain it fully, but I see it lived occasionally by those among us who would seem the least free in the normal understanding of that word.