Finding Direction: Freedom to Choose 2.5.0
Philosophers often argue about freedom. Are we really free? Or are we determined or controlled by our genes, our social situations, our finances, our educations, or our ancestors so that there is no such thing as freedom? This may be an interesting theoretical discussion, but all of us live in the physical and practical world everyday. We face real choices large and small that will inevitably have tangible consequences. Living our lives based on a mindset of helpless and hopeless determinism, caught in a web over which we have no influence, is a waste of our short time on this earth.
We have to live as though we have freedom to choose. We have to live as though our thoughts and actions matter. We have to live as though there is a tomorrow where our choices will have consequences. Otherwise we are doomed to Decay.
The practical reality is that we do have the freedom to choose up to a point. The questions are deceptively simple. First, when are we free to actually choose? When is it not yet too late? Second, can we recognize when it is almost too late, but there is still a chance to change course? To do this it is necessary to be awake to the real possibilities. We need to be aware of when the moment of choice comes, when the road is forking. Wishing things were different or if only we could do X or Y is not productive. Here we need to face reality. We need all of the awareness, insight, and effort we can muster on our own behalf. If we are trying to help others see their choices, how can we encourage their awareness, insight, and effort? In whatever situation we find ourselves, how can we lay out the actual alternatives and probable consequences so that choices can be made consciously and purposely? How can we make choices that we know will be difficult while at the same time understanding that the difficulties are worth the effort and struggle to come?
Without Words We Cannot Think
“When God gave him [Adam] reason, he gave him freedom to choose, for reason is but choosing . . . . We ourselves esteem not of that obedience, or love, or gift, which is of force.” John Milton (1600-1674), Areopagetica (1644)