Saturday, November 4, 2023


Four Freedoms I Value

I'm a member of an international spirituality group that meets monthly via Zoom. Recently, we discussed the possibility of what shared religious or spiritual beliefs there might be among the world's peoples. The moderator that day was hopeful, though without being specific.

I remain skeptical about what ideas and beliefs humanity might hold in common, especially considering the nearly infinite variety of religions, spiritualities and philosophies that exist, and how tightly and fervently they are often held by many people, and which often seem in direct contradiction with others that are equally tightly and fervently held. Where is common ground between polytheism, animism, monotheism and atheism for example? What could possibly be shared among those who hold these apparently disparate and even contradictory beliefs and non-beliefs? Is there indeed a perennial philosophy as Aldous Huxley envisioned if we just dig deeply enough? A kind of core mysticism that really does bind us together?

Still, I wonder if a world-wide survey could even get most people to agree to what would seem to be common-place facts, such as positing that “We are humans living on planet Earth.” Surely there would be those who, for whatever reason or reasons, would disagree.

So I've taken an opposite approach, to enumerate core values that I hold to be foundational just for my own life, and they surround the idea of freedom:

1. Freedom to nurture (my self, others, the earth and its creatures).

2. Freedom to be (whatever and whoever I am, even if, and especially if, that changes over time).

3.Freedom to become (the best and most I can be, as a flowering plant needs rich soil, nutrients, water, appropriate light and dark, and a supportive climate).

4. Freedom to connect (with others, the planet, and the ever-creating spirit which, to me, actually is the planet).

These freedoms require us to respect the same freedoms in others in order for them to exist at all. Either all of us have them, or none. There's no fudging on this. And these freedoms also exist for the planet and its creatures because we are as much a part of the planet as it is part of us. These freedoms recognize and, indeed, even demand an interconnected world. We exist in proximity to everything else.

I take these four freedoms as a basic birthright for us all. They can certainly be abrogated, but not given, as no person, society or government can bestow rights that are inherent in be simply being alive.

The issue then is to find or create a society, a government, where these four freedoms can be recognized. A lot of it, of course, has to do with a hands-off approach of a government toward its citizens, standing back and letting them grow and associate as they will. Where is such a state to be found today?

Certainly it exists in many intentional communities, which typically separate as much as possible from the larger society around them. But the broader society has a way of impinging on us whether we want it to or not. The question is whether societies enhance, restrict, or even acknowledge these freedoms in some form or other. Too often, even in America, we see governmental force used to restrict personal freedom, and the lack of a right to privacy in the Constitution is crippling to the very idea of privacy.

Encouraging governments and societies at large not to restrict these freedoms but to recognize and enhance them is a lengthy process that will require one-to-one interaction to persuade and inform. And changing governments with no interest in recognizing these freedoms in a peaceful and non-violent way is challenging, but not impossible. Force plays no role in such change if these freedoms are truly understood.

They are ideals to work towards in a broader context, while remaining daily guideposts in my own behavior which, quite frankly, I don't always attain.

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