Let me ask you a question: “Would you stand around stark naked in front of a crowd, if you could? Yes, and why, or no, and why not?”
For some, it may seem like a bizarre question. Who, in their right mind would do something despicable like that? Let alone, even think of doing such a disgraceful act? The decision on whether to do it or not lies on free will and freedom of choice, to which every human being is entitled to. What could be right or wrong for you, is not necessarily the same for everyone.
We are born free, and have every right to be free. People that have lost such fundamental freedom through external oppression or conquest are said to be “liberated”, when freedom is restored. We talk about different kinds of freedom-- belief, choice, expression, speech, assembly, and the list goes on. Human beings want to live their lives as they please, without coercion. But what is freedom, really? How does one become truly free?
Freedom is usually depicted as liberation from any form of restraint or from the power of another, usually in physical terms or aspects. It is often described as a source of happiness, the most important of values, and the hallmark of civilization. People pride themselves of freedom and democracy, continually promoting and emphasizing it as they live on. They dislike to a certain degree, being conquered by any type of negative power, and allow themselves to be dominated. If it were not for the brave, heroic figures who dared to fight against opposing forces in order to protect freedom, society would not be where it is today.
Nowadays, freedom is defined as independence, acting based on one’s own decisions without influence of any laws. People have no way of getting the purest form of freedom there is, which is absolute freedom. However, this is often mistaken as a right of getting what a person wants, usually through any physical, mental, or spiritual means. Some take it as fickle and arbitrary, though it should not be. They use it as an excuse to pursue whatever objective they have in mind, to live and act in whatever manner they prefer. Having the right knowledge and using choices for the right reason gives us the right to be human, however, doing the opposite makes us inhuman. Freedom allows each and every person opportunities to make decisions that govern their life, and make their quality of life higher, yet respecting the rights of others.
Our actions are undeniably constrained. “It is by the goodness of God that in most countries we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them,” according to Mark Twain. Genuine freedom doesn’t mean that a person could do just about anything he desires. A truly free person lives out their life making decisions based on their sense of morality, guided by their conscience, and follows obligations and relationships that provide the essence of their lives.
Freedom and the Youth
The youth often yearn for true, absolute freedom. They are put into situations wherein they often feel restrained, similar as being locked inside an imaginary prison, even in the comfort of their own homes. They cannot always get what they want, may it be physical or non-physical desires. They need to think about what actions to take and not to take, how to exercise self-control, how to exude politeness and manners, if deemed necessary, and to choose to do things for the right reason. "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others,” says Nelson Mandela.
In this era, rampant drug use, premarital sex, pornography, crimes, and other widely-known immoral issues are very common. The heaviness of mortal sin is evident. People are well aware of what is perceived as “good” or “bad” in the public eye, yet they still do it, whether performed in secret or not. Without proper guidance and formation, teens tend allow themselves to be led through the sea of temptation. The power and influence of society and environment play a crucial role in cultivating their desires. The tendency is to spiral out of control and before they know it, the deed is already done. To prevent these things from happening, one should be fully aware of the long term consequences and the harmful effects of giving in to the pressures of conforming to what others think is acceptable and right. This is where the gift of conscience plays a major role.
Every human body is the temple of God. Yes, people are born free, but they are not promised absolute freedom. We can do anything we want as long as it is in accordance with the Will of God, follows all moral laws and rules, and respects the rights of others.
Freedom and the Universal Laws
In order to act freely, one should not allow themselves to be affected by any peculiar circumstances, desires, or goals. They should choose the same way others would choose, with the guidance of right knowledge and reason. They should act as others ought to act. Knowledge of moral, civil and divine laws are taken into account, propelled with the right motive and intention.
The mind governs and controls all aspects of the body. It can command any part to function the way you want it to, such as bring forth positive, healthy energy or destructive, negative ones. Anything in excess becomes poison. The constant practice of self-control and fortitude will eventually form a habit that will benefit you in the long term. Make it a habit to think before you act.
The Law of Attraction states, “What you think, you become.” Further delved upon and explained in several books about how it governs every aspect of people’s lives, it empowers one to transform his, in every positive way imaginable.
Why are we born free? We are born with freedom to choose and free will in order to take care of God’s creations, which also includes us in the loop. The weight of our actions rests heavily on our shoulders, and builds up our character and personality, our lives, and how we choose to see the world. Freedom is all about respect; respect for one’s self and respect for the rights of others. Our human laws, the ones we act based on, is fully dependent on Natural and Divine Laws. We cannot become absolutely and completely free people, because we cannot achieve the impossible with our own human hands.
Expressions of Freedom and Psychological Slavery
In this rapidly evolving digital age, living and thriving in a period wherein anything and everything is easily accessible to all, regardless of where they are, makes one bound to be caught up in the indulgences of the world at some point. The culture of oversharing is the very definition of physical freedom. Through the use of the internet, blogs, social media sites, gadgets, and other wonders of technology, anyone can express themselves to a vast audience around the globe, in many different ways.
Do most people even pause to think about the appropriateness of their content and the value of the message they are trying to get across, to people who view their posts? How people act online is a reflection of individual strengths, weaknesses, and insecurities, no matter how perfectly they portray their lives. Enslaved by approval ratings measured through praises or number of “likes”, this represents an individual’s never ending quest for acceptance.
The Concept of Beauty
Enhancing one’s external looks would be classified as one of the boldest, healthiest way of expressing freedom. There is that thought, until we burrow deeper into the darker side of beauty. Somehow, across the years, the demand for the use of modern cosmetics and plastic surgery has risen in alarming levels. The Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (USA) reported in October 2007 a fascinating survey from UCLA scientists. They had found that forty-eight percent of women said they would be interested in cosmetic surgery, liposuction or both, while another 23 percent said they would possibly be interested. This obsession with changing one’s physical appearance seems to be accompanied by a startling psychological devastation that afflicts even the youngest members of society. The National Eating Disorders Association (USA) reported that more than fifty percent of ten-year old girls wish they were thinner.
Even if freedom is widely present in our lives, psychological slavery coexists with it, as well. It is a terrifying thought that pre-pubescent children are willing to go under the knife just for the sake of appearances. The fact that they would even consider permanently changing at least one part of their body, is propelled by feelings of anxiety and inadequacy. It seems that in the olden days, early media have set up an unwritten standard for beauty, and this affected everyone’s perception about it. The said mindset is being passed on from generation to generation, up to the present. Having a sense of superiority among all the others aesthetically, seems much more important to some, than anything else. Rather than focusing on worldwide concerns and donating to organizations that aim to alleviate issues focused on real-world suffering such as poverty, hunger, and lack of education, people seem pretty keen on keeping their confidence about their superficial beauty intact, more than letting their inner beauty shine.
Another factor under psychological slavery is that it often comes in addiction. Addiction of entertainment, illusion and fantasy is another major part of anyone’s life. People have at least experienced fawning over a local celebrity, obsessing over a couple of TV shows and dramas, and tuning in to the latest showbiz, at one point in their lives. The popularity of these topics sometimes surpass those of war and worldwide suffering. They hinder focus on religion, studies, education, and work.
This is referred to as idolatry. Every type of idolatry is especially present in this modern age: through giving more importance on one’s self, long-spent hours on the television and surfing the internet, through worshiping and making celebrities seem like gods and not just role models, and so on. The act of idolatry violates Divine law, or the Decalogue, specifically in the first commandment.
Given the varying arguments about freedom, one question still remains: “Are you truly free?”
The decision lies on what we are and what specific goals we have in our lives and that of others. What is our purpose? What do we stand for? If freedom is love, living in accordance with God’s holy will and universal laws, being free means harnessing the good for the greater benefit of all. If freedom means moving in harmony and congruence with the world, devoid of hindrances that chain and enslave us, only then we can say that we are truly free.