“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
“Now, I am liberal, but to a degree, I want everybody to be free…”
–Bob Dylan, I Shall be Free, #10
“Freedom is a void in the human reality (Being for itself). This nothingness is man behind a noncompliance: the man is still to be done. Freedom is absolute, insofar as it decides the meaning of the constraints.”
–Jean Paul Sartre
“Do wa ditty ditty dum ditty do…”
Mort passed the time by googling freedom and digging up phrases from his memory that related to freedom. The gull was still sitting outside on the rail squawking that he was free. He went out and shared a piece of his ham sandwich, which the gull seemed to appreciate.
It occurred to Mort that freedom had two aspects: freedom from, and freedom for. Freedom from is like what FDR expressed in his four freedoms—essentially freedom from oppression and want. It is freedom from the shackles either imposed by others, or by circumstance. An escape from bondage to what? Freedom of course.
A more challenging notion is what is freedom for? Camus would say a chance to be better. Better than what? Frankl would say the freedom to choose one’s attitude is freedom for choice.
As Mort sat in the lighthouse doing nothing but eating his ham sandwich and watching the iron boats go by, he reflected on his freedom. More than ever he was free to do whatever he wanted. But he also found his freedom to be surprisingly confining. And boring. He had a nagging notion he ought to be writing a novel or something. After all, he had the time.
Despite the universal desire to be free, he noted how many really wanted to be directed. Many want an authoritarian leader to tell them what to do, how to act and feel. Thus, the attraction of Hitler, Chairman Mao, and Donald Trump. No ambiguity there. He heard it said at one time that ambiguity is a resource. Then he thought that ambiguity drives many people nuts, and they pine for clarity and certainty—particularly from authoritarian leaders. As Warren Zevon once said in a song: “It’s the home of the brave, land of the free, where the less you know the better off you’ll be.”
Speaking of knowing less, our Commander in Chief has promoted hydroxychloroquine as prevention and treatment for covid-19, along with injecting disinfectant to clean out your system, among other crazy ideas. Some of his sheep may follow, because, after all, he is the prez. He also wants to open up the economy right now, despite rising cases of the virus. With close to 100,000 deaths he disputes the body count as an exaggeration. He also has “ordered” governors to open up houses of worship, because, they are, after all, essential. Hail to the Chief.
So much for the current state of affairs. Mort decided that his perspective from the lighthouse was overwhelming. He had looked freedom in the face and blinked. He decided to post this missive on his blog and end the lighthouse experience. He opened the door and gave the remains of his sandwich to the gull that was still sitting on the rail. As he walked down the steps, he heard the gull squawk: “you are free.” Yeah, right.
Do wa ditty ditty dum ditty do…
Hi ho. And so it went.