One of the great paradoxes of freedom is that it really cannot be had unless we limit it. Absolute freedom leads to an anarchy wherein no is really free to act. Consider that we would not be free to drive if all traffic laws were ended. The ensuing chaos would making driving quite impossible, not mention dangerous. The freedom to drive, to come and go, depends on us limiting our freedom to merely do as we please and cooperate through obedience to agreed upon norms.
Right now I am writing you in English. I appreciate the freedom we have to communicate and debate. But my freedom to communicate with you is contingent on me limiting myself to the rules we call grammar and syntax. Were there no rules, I would lose my freedom to communicate with you. And you also would not be free to comprehend me. Consider these sentences:
- Jibberish not kalendar if said my you, in existential mode or yet.
- dasja, gyuuwe %&^% (*UPO(&, if gauy ga(&689 (*&(*)) !!
What, can’t you read? Clearly when I assert absolute or extreme freedom neither of us are more free. Rather we are more limited.
So the paradox of freedom is that we can only experience freedom by excepting constraints to our freedom. Without contraints and limits, we are hindered from acting freely.
Jesus and Freedom – Here too is an insight to what Jesus means when he says that If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31-32). There are many people today who excoriate the Church and the Scriptures as a limit to their freedom. Unfortunately many Catholics are also affected by this notion. To such as these, they say the Church is trying to “tell them what to do” and Christians are trying “to impose their values on the rest of us.”
Now of course the Church cannot really force anyone to do much of anything. But beyond this, notice that announcement of Biblical truth is said by many today to threaten freedom, not enhance it. But Jesus says just the opposite, it is the truth that sets us free. Now the truth is a set of propositions that limits us to some extent. If “A” is true then “not A” is false. I must accept the truth and base my life on it to enjoy its freeing power. And the paradoxical result is that the propostions of the truth of God’s teaching do not limit our freedom so much as enhance it.
Image – As we have seen, absolute freedom is not really freedom at all. It is chaos wherein no one can really move. Every ancient city had walls. But these were not so much prison walls, as defending walls. True, one had to limit himself and stay within the walls to enjoy their protection. But within the walls there was great freedom, for one was not constantly fighting off enemies and distracted with a fearful vigilance. He was freed for other pusuits, but only within the walls.
Those who claim that the truth of the gospel limits their freedom might also consider that the world outside God’s truth shows itself to be far less than free. Addictions and compulsions in our society abound. Neuroses, and high levels of stress are major components of modern living. The breakdown of the family and the seeming inability of increasing numbers to establish and keep lasting commitments is quite significant. A kind of teenage obsession with sex is evident and the widespread sadness of STDs, teenage pregnancy, single motherhood (absent fathers) and abortion are its results. Addiction to wealth and greed (the insatiable desire for more) enslave many in a kind of financial bondage wherein they cannot really afford the lifestyle their passions demand, and they are unsatisfied and in deep debt. The so-called freedom of the modern world apart from the truth of the Gospel is far from evident. These bondages also extend into the members of the Church to the extent that we do not seriously embrace the truth and base our lives upon it. The Catechism says rather plainly:
The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to “the slavery of sin.” (CCC # 1733)
In the end, the paradox proves itself. Only limited freedom is true freedom. Demands for absolute freedom lead only hindered freedom and outright slavery.
This video is very creative indeed. It shows a “Jibberish interview” which illustrates how we are free to communicate only within the contraints of grammar and rules of language.