Most people when asked if they are free, they readily answer “yes“, if one then presses the subject with another question “but how do you know you are free?” the traditional response is this “because I can choose to do whatever I want”–Fair enough but what if I decided to provide you with various scenarios where laws, dogma, physical differences and morals set by the society you live in take place (morals vary from one culture to the next), are you then really free? Is it not true most would not dare challenge many of the already mentioned mechanisms set in place? After all if you did choose to break them, you could be sent to jail…well that takes away your freedom…so are we really free? It seems paradoxical–we are and we are not.
We currently live in a world where technology keeps us so “connected”, we are no longer patient with ourselves or with others because we are so used to getting all answers right away; patience, something that use to come naturally to most, now is something that consciously needs to be cultivated. Our so called liberalism, globalization and consumerism are more and more leading to a society stripped of any time to focus on self. We are like a turkey seeking shelter from the storm, no idea where to go, which way to turn and so it finally stays still (gives up) and drowns.
Everything in our society has increased, we have more rights (or do we?) I mean with so many laws that cancel one another and so many “freedoms” which only lead to people being afraid to say or do anything out of fear of screwing up, one can say we are slaves to our freedoms.
Leisure options have increased drastically; all these changes make it possible for us to have more “options” but are we free?…
Niccolo Machiavelli taught about the art of war; for those not familiar with all his works, he didn’t just teach the aggressive approach–in other words, if you can’t control a population by force, then do so by manipulation; give them so much freedom and so many options to choose from, they will be lost and happily surrender their power. In that way people can’t complain they are not free yet they can’t exercise their freedom; in our ignorance we have equated more options with freedom.
It seems Odysseus’ Paradox accurately reflects the current state of affairs for many. In the apocryphal version of “The Odyssey”, Odysseus’ sailors were turned into pigs by a spell from the witch Circe and they were enjoying their new animal condition. For days the sailors avoided Odysseus’ attempts to break the spell, they didn’t want to go back to their human form. Odysseus, confused kept trying to convince them that he had found a way to undo the spell; they hearing it, ran in terror to hide.
After many attempts, Odysseus managed to catch one and rubbed it with the magic herbs he had been given. The pig regained the shape of the sailor Elpenor. The liberated man was not at all grateful for his restored human condition and he furiously attacked Odysseus: “So you are back? Again to annoy us and annoy us? Again to expose our bodies to danger and force our hearts to make new decisions? I was so happy, I could wallow in the mud and frolic in the sun, I could gobble and choke, growl and snug free of doubts and reasons… What did you come to! To throw myself back into my previous hateful life?”–Sounds familiar?–so many people are willing to live in “blissful” ignorance so long as they can avoid responsibility which goes hand in hand with true freedom. As such, when their system of beliefs seems threatened they will fight back like “animals”; not because they understand the concepts at hand but because they need to protect the system that absolves them of responsibility. Such psychology also applies at an individual level–to choose to remain stagnant, to choose to let someone else do the thinking for you or to choose to victimize oneself is to choose to be absolved of any responsibility. Likewise to choose to abuse self and call it freedom, is to blame the “freedom” we have been given; once more people seeking to be absolved of their own responsibility.
Let’s make things a little bit lighter…
Years ago they used to be only a number of tv channels, now there are thousands, people can fall sleep just navigating through them, hoping to find something to watch. A person used to be able to go to the mall and there were only so many options, nowadays people can spend hours upon hours trying to decide what to buy; often they end up buying the first thing they feel would look ok because to try everything else would take too long–in the meantime they are so mentally tired, they often end up buying extra things in a subconscious need to validate the wasted time. Or let’s look at the new dating sites; before people would meet face to face, now you “swap” from image upon image (and there are thousands) that it can get so overwhelming– as such many times people go with whichever profile seems ok–does that sound like real choice?–For women who are not into one night stands, this new dating system can be so exhausting and overwhelming, for more often than not, one gets way too many responses which leave one feeling tired (unless you validate your false ego through that type of thing). Does that sound like we are heading in the right direction? Does it sound like we are free or does it sound as slaves to a society we ourselves contributed to create.
If freedom lies in choice alone then that freedom comes at a price. Having many options requires greater cognitive resources to decide. Math is clear on this; excess of options can generate paralysis. A greater number of available options will weaken our decision making.
“The paradox of freedom of choice describes our tendency to be less satisfied with our acquisitions the more alternatives there are. The problem is not what we choose but everything we feel we give up when we choose something or someone. Therefore in this case, freedom reduces our satisfaction. We are free to be less happy“
So are we to live with limited choices and resources as we did in the past? is there were the solution lies? If that is what you got out of this article, then you misunderstood me; I have emphasized self responsibility.
Is okay to live in times where we have an opinion instead of being made to be silent. Is okay to have options, just don’t confuse them with being free. Is more than okay to have such beautiful technological advances, so long as they are not your master but the other way around. Is okay to be liberated just don’t confuse that with abuse of self. Is okay to speak openly, just don’t confuse what is trending with knowledge. Is okay to enjoy, just remain grounded. The bottom line is this; where our world goes from here depends on all of us. We can be bombarded by options but it is in us where lies the power to take a step back and decide… do I want to be free or do I want the illusion of freedom–after all you have the right to choose between those two; just don’t go lying to yourself about the reasons why you choose something.
The simpler solution for all of this, is to make time to listen to yourself among all the voices screaming what is right, wrong and so on. Learn to make time to discover who you really are. Learn to exercise your free will regardless of what that means–sometimes it can be good, other times it will help you confront parts of self you ran from.
No matter what, learn to listen to your inner voice, that is the only way you will experience genuine joy (but first you need to learn to differentiate which is your voice and which is the program). Secondly remember that sometimes giving is more beautiful than receiving and less can be more. Strive for your success (whatever that looks like for you) just make sure it serves you, not out of a desire to prove someone else wrong. In other words choose to be humane over becoming a robotic entity which follows external command. Choose to be divine….