Friday, July 20, 2018

The First Freedom

In the previous post we were discussing the abilities that not only elevate man over animal, but truly define him, those being an intelligence that discerns between reality and appearance; a will that chooses between good and evil; and sentiment capable of disinterest -- "of looking at itself from without, just as it can put itself in another's place" (Schuon).

Note that these three are necessarily entangled with one another -- distinct but never radically separate, like... like a great a jazz trio or something.

For example, if we cannot distinguish reality from appearances, then it will be difficult to discern good from evil. Instead of choosing the actual good, we might be attracted to what looks or sounds good. In other words, we might be seduced by leftism, which, you might say, is the Doctrine of Good Intentions. But intentions are situated in a temporal chain of cause and effect, and if you champion the cause then you own the effect.

For it is written:

Liberal ideas are congenial. Their consequences are disastrous.

Because The theses of the left are rationalizations that are carefully suspended before reaching the argument that dissolves them (Dávila).

So, if you think the left has ever solved a problem, just wait. Progressives deal only in appearances and therefore symptoms, such that the real problem always returns.

For example, Chicago has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world. So, what's the real problem? Likewise, New York and San Francisco have the most stringent rent control laws in the country, and are two of the most unaffordable places to live. What happened? Or, cities such as Seattle and Portland mandate that employers pay employees more than they're worth, which leads to businesses closing and increased unemployment. I wonder why? Are there laws of economics or something?

More generally, we see that freedom, although one of our most precious birthrights, can become worthless or harmful if detached from its telos in the true and good. If freedom is just freedom, then to hell with it. It is then indistinguishable from nihilism, or even the last word in nothingness. And if you don't understand this literally, then you're not paying attention. You've missed a step somewhere.

More ineluctable truth from the Aphorist:

Freedom is not an end, but a means. Whoever sees it as an end in itself does not know what to do with it when he gets it.

Freedom is not the goal of history but the material that it works with.

The price of absolute freedom would be a vulgarity without limits.

I know, Alex! What is Hollywood?

It get's worse, because freedom misunderstood and misused transforms into a kind of Nameless Dread -- or to what Sartre rightly called existential nausea: total freedom = comprehensive meaninglessness. Which is ironic, because denial of freedom also = comprehensive meaninglessness. Why? Because, although they appear opposite, they are unified in their rejection of our divine-human telos.

I don't mean to lean so hard on the Aphorist this morning, but when you're right you're right, and who else can be so right with so few words?

Whoever is liberated from everything that oppresses him soon discovers that he is also liberated from what protects him.

And if you want to understand this principle all the way down -- or up -- you have to understand it in terms of following in the footsteps of our first father, Adam. His kind of willful "bad liberation" liberates us from what protects us, precisely.

Liberation. One could veer off into a whole new post with the misuse of that word alone! "Women's liberation." "Black liberation." "Gay liberation." "Palestinian liberation." And other traps:

Today what is called “intellectual liberation” is a change of prisons.

Total liberation is the process that constructs the perfect prison.

What is our "first freedom?" -- the freedom that renders man possible? Or, without which no other freedoms can be actualized? I'll let you think about your answer, while I think about mine.

Freedom of speech? Property? Association? Self-defense?

Nah, I don't think those drill all the way down. The first freedom must be... from oneself! This goes back to what Schuon says above about the ability to adopt a disinterested perspective, to look at oneself as if from the outside, and to put ourselves in the place of the other.

This puts a whole new spin on Jesus's reduction of the Law to the love of God and of neighbor, both of which require and perfect self-transcendence. A man who cannot transcend himself is not only not worthy of freedom, but can't really exercise it in its real sense.

For true charity -- AKA caritas -- "consists in abolishing the egocentric distinction between 'me' and the 'other'"; it "implies seeing ourselves in the other and the other in ourselves; the scission between ego and alter must be overcome, that the cleavage between Heaven and earth may be healed" (Schuon).

So, the first freedom and the first charity involve the elimination of an assoul -- a self-centered assoul called I.

The first act of charity is to rid the soul of illusions and passions and thus rid the world of a maleficent being; it is to make a void so that God may fill it and, by this fullness, give Himself. A saint is a void open for the passage of God (Schuon).

5 comments:

ted said...

Whoever is liberated from everything that oppresses him soon discovers that he is also liberated from what protects him.

Sort of makes me think of what feminism has led to: a bunch of angry, unhinged women who can't seem to find a man to give them roots.

neal said...

I heard somewhere the real trick is not staying dead or linear.
Once and always.

I think sometimes the wavy parts are older than the particulars.

In the sense of pattern selection.

julie said...

Liberal ideas are congenial. Their consequences are disastrous.

Along those lines, Vanderleun has a vanished post linking (among many other things) to a sobering article about the <a href="https://quillette.com/2018/07/15/devastation-and-denial-cambodia-and-the-academic-left/>Khmer Rouge</a>, including the Western leftists whose denial of the possibility that things could be bad there prevented anyone from even attempting to put a stop to the horror. As a result, 25% of the population were slaughtered.

But no, it couldn't have been that bad, and anyway they did it wrong. <i>Next</i> time things will be better!/

<i>Freedom is not an end, but a means. Whoever sees it as an end in itself does not know what to do with it when he gets it.</i>

A corollary to the quip that millions of people long for eternal life who don't know what to do with an afternoon.

BZ said...

I particularly liked this essay.

Van Harvey said...

"Nah, I don't think those drill all the way down. The first freedom must be... from oneself! This goes back to what Schuon says above about the ability to adopt a disinterested perspective, to look at oneself as if from the outside, and to put ourselves in the place of the other."

Without the ability - and willingness - reflective contemplation, there can be nothing to hold you back from doing what obviously needs to be done - who will tell you what needs more thought? There can only be those who are with you, and those who are against you, and you will grapple with them all the way down....