Freedom

Jonathan Franzen at the 2008 Brooklyn Book Fes...
Image via Wikipedia

Freedom to begin with is a good thing. In scripture it says that, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free and not to be subject again by a yoke of slavery (Gal 5:1). Jesus also tells us that knowing the truth will set us free (Jhn 8:32). Positive things no doubt about that.

But let’s side tract for a while to a rather negative aspect of freedom. Let me just mention some quotes about freedom from an article form Time magazine where they were doing a cover story on a novelist named Jonathan Franzen. Taken aback by his first name, I picked up the issue and read through the cover story and was surprised and enlightened at what I read. This guy has something to tell us about freedom. And he tells it like a teaching that is close to our hearts.

Let me comment that Franzen is slaying the much loved idea of what people generally call freedom.

People will normally want freedom in access. To have unlimited freedom. But in reality too much freedom is bad.

Franzen says that “…if we were going to be elevating freedom to the defining principle of what we’re about as a culture and a nation, we ought to take a careful look at what freedom in practice brings.”

The article goes on to state, “The weird thing about the freedom of Freedom is that what it doesn’t bring is happiness.”

“…too much freedom is an empty, dangerous entropic thing.”

Excessive freedom, though many might assume that if one had it in excess, paves way for happiness. One has the possibility to choose from a wide variety because he is given freedom. But sometimes freedom is not something that automatically brings happiness and fulfilment. Though freedom broadens our horizon it can, if not handled well, blur our vision of seeing and perceiving.

So with that what are we to do with too much freedom on our hands?

Which brings us to the second thing: Do something with your freedom. Paul tells us that being free does not give us a license to sin but rather to do something with that freedom-“serve one another humbly in love.” (Gal 5:1-2)

Franzen says that “One of the ways of surrendering freedom is to actually have convictions…..And a way of further surrendering freedom is to spend quite a bit of time acting on those convictions.”

The article goes on to say that, “There is something beyond freedom that people need: work, love, belief in something, commitment to something. Freedom is not enough. It’s necessary but not sufficient. It’s what you do with freedom-what you give up for-that matters.”

The doing something about freedom here is slaying it actually. Slay the false notion/idea of freedom. To give up freedom is to be truly free. (The one who loves his life loses it.)

Like when Jesus liberates us from sin and that in turn gives us freedom, it does not translate to the meaning that we now get to do what we want. We are free to go our own way. It is rather the other way round. Jesus frees us so that we can now serve another master, being slaves again for this master. Only this master is worthy to be praised and adored.

In Jesus we give up freedom to be really free.

And on a final note, to be truly free is to be what we are called to be. At points to be truly free to live is to have a single point objective and not a flood pouring one. Most of the time we struggle because we want to live like other people, we a too cautious of ourselves, we are too into ourselves until we forget how it is to live like a human being. Too many times we lose our focus.

The article on Franzen goes on to say that, “Birds are supposed to be free, or that’s what the song says, but when Franzen looks at them, that’s not what he sees. Birds aren’t free. They have work to do- eat, breed, fly, sing- and they do it. They’re not paralyzed by self-consciousness or indecision. When Franzen watches birds, he sees himself at his best, which is at work, miserable work, in his rented office, chewing tobacco…, shouting himself hoarse in front of his crippled laptop. Birds don’t take vacations, and neither does he.

Reading through that quote, to who we are most of the time because of the way we think and what influences us we are paralyzed by self-consciousness and indecision. We have too much going on for us. In a way, we have to free ourselves of all this baggage.

In conclusion, we noted that while freedom is good, excessive freedom is bad. What’s important with when we have freedom is what we actually do with it. To be truly free is to give freedom up. Now that one sounds somewhat radical. And finally to be free is to be just me, to be who we are meant to be. It’s hard enough that we try to be other people.

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