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The First and Last Freedom

Every man and woman seeks freedom. But what is freedom and how is it obtained? Does it simply mean doing as you please and living just by your rules – enjoying yourself and having fun? Clearly not, for your freedom – to drive down the middle of the road, for example – is another’s misfortune. Freedom, like what is good, for oneself cannot be really understood or invoked in isolation from freedom or what is good for other people. We can only be free within limits; hence we have laws, restrictions and rules of conduct integrated in a mature framework for society. This setting enables and encourages the individual to grow without fear or social monitoring pressure on his unique path of self-fulfilment, in the process bringing forth a mature expression of his inner abilities for the benefit of the surroundings. So there is no such thing as absolute personal freedom.

By Ìsíjú Ká

Moreover, freedom is limited by natural laws. We cannot fly like a bird or swim like a fish. We cannot live in deserts or frozen wastes without water and warm clothing. We are also in peril from storm, tempest, earthquake and fire. Clearly there are natural restrictions, as well as man-made ones, on our freedom.

However, we do have something that other creatures lack: we have free will, freedom to choose one course of action over another in our aspirations. We are not programmed like robots; neither are we conditioned like animals by instinct. We may choose to indulge ourselves, to grow fat or thin, to sacrifice ourselves or starve to death, to aspire to noble achievements and self-fulfilment. So, within obvious limits, we do have choice. Choice is carried out in the brain. We choose to eat or starve, to make war or peace, to love or hate. Why, then, does the brain so often make the ‘wrong’ choice? Is it not possible for the voice of conscience to help us make the ‘right’ or a better choice, one leading to less pain and anger? The brain is a fine instrument; it has led to the advancement of science and the improvement of the human lot. Negatively, however, it has led to wars, bloodshed, revenge killings and untold grief. When working without conscience, a concept that literally means science that is ‘within’, the brain can restrict and pervert those so-called freedoms we hold so dear.

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