“No Man is Free Who is Not Master of Himself.”
“It’s a free world!” our seven-year-old son cried out in a final effort to rationalize his tantrum. He did not want to go to sleep, and he cried out against his enforced bedtime as an invasion of his rights. His illusion is not uncommon even among grown-ups. We often define freedom as the right to do as we please, but this is an erroneous conception. Freedom is not the right to do as we please. No one can do just as he pleases, since we are all subject to pressure from sources beyond ourselves, which we cannot defy. If freedom consists of the right to that defiance under all circumstances, then none of us can be free. The laws of gravity, biology, geography; the laws of the road and of our home routines; die laws of the natural world and the laws of the man-made world—all these and countless other regulations limit our right to do as we please.
The separation of time elapsing between the pronouncing of the stimulation word and the response is precisely measured. It is needless to say that this would not only be an object of human race, but a great monetary saving, considering how expensive it is to support invalids, and to interchange men; not to mention that it is upon the health and lives of men that all public exertions fundamentally depend.
Freedom is the opportunity for self-realization. In each of us lie dormant all kinds of powers which were meant to be developed in the course of our maturing. Moreover, once developed, they were meant to be employed in the give and take of life. We are free if our powers can develop to the fullness of their promise and if we are unimpeded in their use.
A rock that rests on the seed planted in the ground will prevent its growth, thereby denying its freedom. However, tying the tender plant to a garden stake—while limiting it from too much movement, rather than restricting—enlarges its freedom, because it is an aid to its growth. And a world in which little boys have to retire at a reasonable hour is indeed a world which holds the conditions of freedom, because it is in such a world that little boys can grow up to become wholesome and healthy adults.
Let us not fret because there are traffic laws by which we must travel on the highway of life. The laws of the road, if they make for safer driving, are a contribution to our freedom, not an infringement of it.
Becoming Afraid of Peace and Happiness
As for the greater variety, having become afraid of peace and happiness, one goes to asylum for the welfare of others.
The flux seems indeed often to be a kind of alternate for fevers, as it prevails most in those ships that have brought from Europe an infective fever. While it is better to have no idea than have a false idea, it is also better to have a genuine idea than having a pretended idea or no idea. In addition, this being so, I think it a great erroneous belief to persist in attempting to ascertain in the Christian doctrine that thoroughgoing rule for our counsel which its author intended it to sanction and impose, but only partially to offer. Stoic Philosopher and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations,
Be not perturbed, for all things are according to the nature of the universal; and in a little time thou wilt be nobody and nowhere, like Hadrian and Augustus. In the next place having fixed thy eyes steadily on thy business look at it, and at the same time remembering that it is thy duty to be a good man, and what man’s nature demands, do that without turning aside; and speak as it seems to thee most just, only let it be with a good disposition and with modesty and without hypocrisy.
Nothing contributes more to wellness and long life than pure and good air: but by pure we are not to interpret bleak; nor are old men at any time to choose it. Conversely, representatives of scientific discipline have often attempted to arrive at all-important judgments with respect to values and ends based on scientific method, and in this way have set themselves in opposition to religion. It is well known, some who have reached a rare date of life, have perished at last by a sudden change in their food: and the air is scarcely of less effect.