Why Freedom Demands Responsibility

“The principle of freedom must be our first commitment, for without this no one is immune against the virus of aggrandizement – the impulse to grab power, wealth, position, or reputation at the expense of others.” 

Herbert DouglassSourCE:The Cost Of Freedom

True freedom is a commitment to experiencing the very real limitations of our choices.

We will always have to live with some sort of, ‘what if I had…’ We will always have to mourn the limitless possibilities we didn’t pursue. If we had no choice about our life we’d simply get on with it, but because we do, we live in constant fear of making the wrong one.

That’s the price we pay for the freedom of choice. 

We have to live with the consequences of our actions. We have to live in the knowledge we could have done things differently. To know we could have done things better.

I wonder if many of us don’t actually want the level of responsibility that comes with having to choose our own fate? Perhaps this is why so many of us prefer to be told what to do? Perhaps this is why so many of us choose not to think for ourselves? 

It’s too uncomfortable.

We don’t want to take responsibility for our life. We didn’t have to as children so why should we now?

Many recent decisions we’ve made in the “free” parts of this world demonstrate an unwillingness to take on this fundamental aspect of freedom. We follow the herd because it’s easier. We follow the herd because that’s what our parents taught us to do.

I imagine that living in a society where your thoughts and actions are decided for you is in some ways easier. You don’t have to think about what to do. When your survival depends on the actions that the state has demanded, you just do. So you become another brain washed cog in the totalitarian machine. Just as your dictator ordered. There’s a nice little cog.

The sad truth about such a life is you still have responsibilities. They’re just not your own.

You cannot escape responsibility.

Many of us falsely belief that freedom comes with the freedom not to have any responsibilities. How we love to have our cake and eat it too! We say, ‘if only I choose the right leader then I’ll be able to achieve financial independence free from having to try at anything.’

Delusion is a word.

Delusion is what’s sold to you by populists who promise the world free of charge. They promise you the things that only you can deliver for yourself. 

There’s a huge price that comes with freedom, incalculable in fact – millions have died for it – but I believe the rewards justify it. Yes the possibility of failure is real, but so is the possibility of achieving greatness. We should remember that humans don’t flourish under the conditions of compulsion – we flourish under the conditions of free co-operation.

It’s hard to shift through the noise of course. It’s extremely hard in fact. To do the research required to figure out what your own opinions are on matters that affect us all. The rewards are not that you’ll have a leader you want or a country that reflects the values you hold either.

You probably won’t.

The reward is actually greater than that. The reward is that you get to know who you truly are. This is something your country and the world needs more than your vote. What we need is a diversity of unique voices speaking for themselves. What we don’t need is a tribe of mindless people echoing only the thoughts of one man.

Don’t be so quick to throw your freedom under the bus for someone else. 

It’s important to remember that no two voices are the same. Freedom respects that fact. We should be extremely wary of those who seek to limit the voices of others. We should take the time to listen to what our own heart has to say. We should put in the effort to form our own opinions. We should honour them with the choices we get to make.

I read a quote recently by Niklas Göke from his excellent article Responsibility Is Freedom that said,

“Freedom is not about shedding your responsibilities, it’s about choosing them.”

I would go a step further and say that freedom demands we choose our responsibilities. The same way that having a life demands we protect it. If you want freedom of choice then you have to choose to take responsibility for your life. If you don’t someone else will choose your responsibilities for you. The danger is they will use that for their own profit and power by forming a narrative you refused to take responsibility for forming yourself. In doing so they will shut your mind from your heart. The moment that happens, you’ve lost your freedom.


Thank you all for taking the time to read. As always I’m interested to get your thoughts. What do you think about the relationship between freedom and responsibility? Have we taken our freedoms for granted in the Western world? Is this why we find it under threat? Do you even believe it is under threat? Do you think that freedom has nothing to do with responsibility? As always I welcome ALL opinions and thoughts. This is very much a free state. 

Is Science Not The Word Of God?

I‘m not going to sit here and tell you that science disproves God because it doesn’t. It’s just that it has nothing to point toward. Nothing to measure. Nothing to say equivocally one way or another about its existence. What it does tell us is that the earth definitely wasn’t made in 7 days. What it does disprove is the word of humans in the name of God.

So many people seem to forget that the bible was written by humans, not god. Word – the English language, any language for that matter – that’s humankind’s invention. So why not accept we got a lot of it wrong given it was written 2000 plus years ago by humankind in the name of God, but not by God itself?

The way I see it you can hardly sit at home while staring at your smart phone or flat screen television and tell me that science is wrong. The last I checked there wasn’t a blueprint in the bible about how the combustion engine works, how aeroplanes fly or how your iPhone or television are built. Science gave us these things. Humankind has been able to create these things because of what science has taught us. Of course science isn’t always right but it’s the first to admit when it’s not.

One of the big problems we have today – what I believe to be one of its major failures – is religion’s resistance to what science has to tell us. If it opened its mind to what science has to say and accepted that, as a consequence, it disproves a huge amount of scripture but not, crucially, the existence of a grand creator, I believe religions could go further in keeping people part of their respective faiths in the years to come. I also believe this would be mutually beneficial to both science and the world at large, convincing millions of the need to take what science has to say much more seriously.

Softening its stance toward science would also help shine a light for those who detest religion about why many of its moral principle’s are worth considering. Why a moral code is both important for living a meaningful life and for pursuing science within.

I might add that I believe it would help teach many about the dire need to question one’s own beliefs – to not take everything written in a book (and especially the Internet) as absolute. In my opinion religious fanaticism (or any form of extremism) is born from such rigidity. And I will say, in defence of religion, that the popular and pervasive Western notion that religion is the cause of all our problems (or wars) is one I strongly disagree with. As I see it extremism has nothing to do with a belief in God but a lack of questioning one’s beliefs (of questioning one’s own ego). People end up killing others not because they believe in God but because their egos can’t stand the thought of being wrong. Rigidity of belief is a bigger issue than any belief in and of itself.

Anyway why is it that so many religions view science as a threat? If religion is part of the same human desire to understand the world and our place within it, (which I believe it is), then why wouldn’t it take an active interest in what science has to say? Science is, after all, simply, “the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experimentation.” If you believe in God, are you not interested in understanding the world and the laws by which it created it? Is this not also a more accurate interpretation of what God actually has to say? I mean why not listen to the word of God in the form of far less disputable science, rather than the extremely disputable word of man? Logically speaking this makes far more sense does it not? 

And hey let’s!

Let’s look at what science currently has to say and what it currently fails to explain. As Amir D. Aczel points out in his fascinating essay – Why Science Does Not Disprove God“Science is an amazing, wonderful undertaking: it teaches us about life, the world and the universe. But it has not revealed to us why the universe came into existence nor what preceded its birth in the Big Bang. Biological evolution has not brought us the slightest understanding of how the first living organisms emerged from inanimate matter on this planet and how the advanced eukaryotic cells — the highly structured building blocks of advanced life forms — ever emerged from simpler organisms. Neither does it explain one of the greatest mysteries of science: how did consciousness arise in living things?” 

But get this! 

“Much more important than these conundrums is the persistent question of the fine-tuning of the parameters of the universe: Why is our universe so precisely tailor-made for the emergence of life?… How was all of this possible without some latent outside power to orchestrate the precise dance of elementary particles required for the creation of all the essentials of life? The great British mathematician Roger Penrose has calculated — based on only one of the hundreds of parameters of the physical universe — that the probability of the emergence of a life-giving cosmos was 1 divided by 10, raised to the power 10, and again raised to the power of 123. This is a number as close to zero as anyone has ever imagined. (The probability is much, much smaller than that of winning the Mega Millions jackpot for more days than the universe has been in existence.)” 

He goes onto state, “The incredible fine-tuning of the universe presents the most powerful argument for the existence of an immanent creative entity we may well call God. Lacking convincing scientific evidence to the contrary, such a power may be necessary to force all the parameters we need for our existence—cosmological, physical, chemical, biological and cognitive—to be what they are.” 

Now at this point I could counter with an argument about the possible existence of a multiverse – an infinite number of universes each with its own set of parameters making the existence one just like ours not only likely, but inevitable. And while that might solve Penrose’s particular math problem, it still fails to answer a number of other important questions including why it is that anything exists at all?

Anyway, without going down that particular rabbit hole, the major point I want to make is not a question of whether God exists or what it all means, but that such arguments are irresolvable. We will never know and, perhaps, can never even hope to. It’s for this reason I ask you open your mind to the possibility that you’re wrong, which ever side of the fence you happen to be. To show one another a great deal more respect as a result. Because whether you’re an atheist or a theist the fact is, we are ALL agnostics. 

I’ll close by saying one more thing.

We all live in a society where both science and religion will always play massive roles. For me a far more important question is how do we bring them closer together? How do we allow for a deep respect for both to exist independently? And while I would never tell someone they must believe in God (or not), I strongly believe we all need to give what science has to say a great deal more respect.

With that in mind, let’s take the premise that science is, in fact, the word of God (or the closest thing to it). If you do, then one must also conclude what God is telling us right now. That is, although I gave you the miraculous and highly, highly improbable conditions for the existence of life, I did so on a knife-edge and now, because of global warming, you are playing with the very fires of my creation.

Are you sure you want to keep ignoring what God is trying to tell you? 


(Thanks for reading once again everyone. I appreciate that the above is an extremely complicated and thorny subject but I am genuinely interested in your thoughts. I won’t judge you whatever it is you believe. I’m simply interested in the dialogue. Wishing you all the very best, AP2 🙏 )

SOURCES:

The Only Thing The World Needs From You

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Howard Thurman (Source: The Living Wisdom of Howard Thurman: A Visionary for Our Time)

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking, ‘what do you mean the ONLY THING the world needs from me?! The world demands EVERYTHING from me!!!’

‘It expects me to be a teetotaling, super-ripped, enlightened, buddhist monk who lives in a mansion with 5 cars yet gives everything to the poor, can speak 6 languages, hold 3 full-time jobs with an additional 8 hobbies on the side while also caring for the elderly with the abundance of spare time one must have available.’

Breathe…

‘On top of which I must also find a cure for cancer, prevent global warming, travel the entire world, read 8 books a day, find the time to study for a 4th profession, have the perfect life partner, raise straight A children who never fart in public, cook the recommended 12 meals a day, eat only the finest imported wagyu beef, be a vegan, own the latest model of smartphone while also find a suitable replacement for plastics.’

‘Should I go on?!!!’

You could but I think we get the point.

Yes, unfortunately, this is but a modicum of what our fucked up society expects. That said, this is exactly why we need to be very clear.

What the world needs from you and what society expects are two very different things.

One you need to trust in. The other you need tell fuck off!

Society’s ridiculous expectations have flooded our brains with too much information. We’re constantly being pulled in a million different directions that’s left us paralysed in one. We can’t see through the sea of bullshit to understand what we’re supposed to do. We’re lost wondering which way we should paddle with no land in sight.

The problem isn’t what society thinks, of course. The major problem we have is making society’s expectations our own. In doing so we play a game we can’t possibly win. As a result of not being able to meet these impossible expectations – because none of us can – many of us simply give up.

What we need to do is set ourselves free. We need to cut through the noise and focus on our major purpose in life. We need to follow our calling. Then say ‘fuck it’ to the rest. I truly believe this will benefit the world far more than trying to meet society’s expectations. That’s provided you can shift through all the bullshit and follow what your calling in life actually is. As in, not society’s. Not your parent’s. Not Barrack Obama’s. Certainly not Donald Trump’s. Yours! Your own unique calling.

This is the only thing the world needs from you.

I think that you know this of course, the question is how?! And also what the fuck?

I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers but I’ll give you a few more thoughts you should probably ignore.

Fuck what society has to say about who it thinks you should be.

You and only you get to decide what success looks like. Don’t let society do that for you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your life has to look good on paper, so some top level exec can commend you on your perfect CV to only then give the job to the slightly less qualified white man because you’re black, or a women, or a black women…

Ahhh shiiiiiiit!

To be clear I’m not saying give up. To not be a better person. To not go after what you want despite any disadvantages you may or may not have. 

No! 

What I’m saying is to be clear about what success actually means to you, to be clear about what you actually want. Don’t go chasing someone else’s goals. If you want to wander the seven seas as a pirate – if that’s what makes you feel alive – then who the fuck am I, or anyone else for that matter, to judge you? At least if you fail as a pirate (highly probable) you’ll have loved life.

Seriously!

We spend far too much time thinking about how our life choices will be viewed by others. We need to wake up and follow what we know in our hearts will make us happy.

A stressful life chasing other people’s version of success is what has turned us all into robots. We’re simply going through the motions so we can reach our end goal. We say to ourselves, it’ll all be worth it after I have secured financial independence for the last 10 good years of my life. After I have broken my body, sold my soul and lost all sense of aliveness in the mean time.

Is your retirement really worth that much? To slave away so that one day you might get to live in the knowledge that money is no longer a problem for you, for the last 10 years of your life?

Let me tell you something that society doesn’t want you to work out. Money is but one problem.

When Jay-Z rapped about 99 problems I suspect they were all related to having money. Bitches weren’t one of them admittedly, because of the money, but even so. The point is be careful what you chase after in life. 

The world really doesn’t need you to be rich and famous. It doesn’t need you to solve all its problems. Society has made this an obsession of yours but it’s bullshit.

The only thing the world needs from you is to come alive. That comes from chasing the dreams that you alone have defined. It comes from following your heart.

I’ve got a new rap song. It goes, I’ve got 99 problems but the dream ain’t one. (How white am I?) If you can sing that you’re winning my friend because you’ll always have 99 problems. Don’t make not following your dreams one of them.


As always I welcome ALL opinions on this blog. And as always, my writing requires a large pinch of salt! That said I’m curious as to what you think about the argument that following your heart is better for the world than trying to meet society’s expectations? Thoughts and comments very welcome below. Thanks again for reading.

How To Develop More Intelligent Self-Interest

“One should never do something to others that one would regard as an injury to one’s own self. In brief, this is dharma. Anything else is succumbing to desire.”

— MAHĀBHĀRATA 13.114.8 (CRITICAL EDITION)

It’s ironic that the fictional character Joey from friends, who everyone laughed at for being a bit slow, was also the character to come out with one of the most profound statements of the entire show when he argued with Phoebe that,

“There is no such thing as a truly self-less good deed.”

I agree with him.

Whether you’d care to admit it almost every action we make is motivated on some level by selfish intent. Even a charitable act is motivated on some level by your desire to feel good.

That’s not to say there is anything wrong with this – in fact, quite the opposite – it’s just something to be aware of. After all, if we weren’t motivated on some level by a desire to feel good, or to avoid feeling bad, then why would we do anything? We need something to motivate us. For that reason there has to be an element of self-interest behind our actions.

Anyway, why do I bring this up?

I heard the expression intelligent self-interest mentioned on a podcast a while back. This got me thinking about what this means and how we can make our self-interests more intelligent.

When I dug a little deeper I came to understand, although they are described/defined somewhat differently by various articles on the subject we can, broadly speaking, look at self-interest on three different levels.

Those are unintelligent (or stupid as I like to think of it), intelligent and enlightened self-interest.

This post is going to define each and look at how we can cultivate the latter two.


What is unintelligent self-interest?

Unintelligent self-interest is the personal interest of an individual that, if pursued, hurts others and/or themselves.

Some obvious examples of unintelligent-interest include binge watching NETFLIX, drug abuse, smoking, mindlessly scrolling on social media, etc. 

You know, all the things you shouldn’t be doing that every blogger and his dog bang on about everyday. (All the things I’ve done before, and in some cases still do…)

These are unintelligent forms of self interest because they satisfy a desire at the expense of our longer term health and happiness. 

We also tend to think because I’m only doing these things to myself that’s ok. I’m not hurting anyone else. 

But that’s wrong. 

What hurts you ultimately hurts others. By not working to resolve past trauma or avoiding negative emotions instead of doing what you ought to, you can trust me when I tell you this, not only does this hurt yourself it also hurts those around you. 

How then can we make our self-interests more intelligent and what does it mean?


What is intelligent self interest?

Intelligent self-interest is still about acting in ways that suit you, however, it also considers the ways in which it helps others.

It is about thinking of the other person while acting for yourself, i.e. you’re not acting without regard for others.

Some obvious examples of intelligent self-interest include meditation, exercise, a healthy diet, plentiful sleep, etc.

You know, all the things you should do that every blogger and his dog bang on about everyday. 

These are intelligent forms of self interest because you’re acting in a way that not only benefits your own longer term health and happiness, it also benefits others.

After all, a happier and healthier you is a happier and healthier world. Further, you cannot look after others without first looking after yourself.

One of the problems that proponents of such activities have is the way in which they frame their motivations. They talk on and on about the benefits they have for you. How meditation, exercise and a balanced diet helps you

Often they over emphasise the benefits these activities have for you without considering the larger reasons beyond the immediate. 

If you want to make mediation a habit, as an example, it’s far better to consider how taking the time to cultivate mindfulness is of benefit to your family and friends, as well as yourself. 

One way to do this is by asking yourself the following question:

Am I doing this because of love or fear?

I believe one of the major reasons our motivations stall is because we don’t feel we’re good enough (fear) and so give up far too easily. This is a problem many of us have when focusing solely on ourselves. If you take the focus away from yourself and instead remind yourself of the other people in your life for whom you’re doing these things (love), you’re far more likely to stick with it.

At least I know I am.

Instead of beating ourselves up for not being good enough and metaphorically whipping ourselves to do something about it, why not focus on feeling good about doing the things that ultimately help others too?

It’s a win win.

This brings us to the final level on the self-interest scale that I made up. The question I have is how can we act in enlightened self-interest that helps others? How can we see that helping others does in fact help ourselves? Let’s first explore what it means.


What is enlightened self-interest?

Enlightened self-interest is acting for others without expecting anything in return.

Some obvious examples of enlightened self-interest include donating to charity, volunteer work, saving someones life, etc.

You know, all the things every blogger and his dog probably should be going on about everyday but don’t.

These are acts done from the goodness of ones hearts. They aren’t done in expectation of gaining anything personally. 

I would make a point that this is very different to acting out of a sense of responsibility or obligation – because you think it’s the right thing to do. 

It’s far deeper than that. 

Enlightened self-interest understands that although no obvious attributable gain for oneself has been made, a bit like the beautiful philosophical idea of karma, what comes around goes around.

People who act in enlightened self-interest understand we are all part of the same world. That by hurting another you’re ultimately hurting yourself.

This is why it’s heavily related to the Golden rule: To treat others as you would like others to treat you.

Or, to put it as a question, one can ask themselves,

How would I want others to help me if I were in their position?

This isn’t rocket science of course.

If you look deeply enough, you’ll find how you treat others is how you treat yourself. Kindness to others extends inwards as well as out. The same is as true for anger or hatred. You give fuel to those feelings within yourself by acting on them. 

Enlightened self-interests come about as a by-product of truly wanting to help this world, as you would like it to be for you. By thinking in terms of how your actions will affect others we can, bit by bit, develop enlightened self-interest naturally. It’s simply a matter of acting in the interests of your heart. 

(As always I welcome ALL comments and ideas on this blog. If you have anything to add or any other suggestions about how develop more intelligent self-interest I’d love to hear from you in the comments sections below)


SOURCES:

https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/evolution/unselfish-act.htm

https://hbr.org/1989/05/how-selfish-are-people-really

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlightened_self-interest

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karma

People As Mirrors

“Your perception of me, is a reflection of you. My reaction to you is an awareness of me.” Unknown.

What do you do when you look at yourself in the mirror?

Maybe you comb your hair or have a shave. Maybe you brush and floss your teeth. Maybe you correct your posture. Maybe you examine the look in your eyes and evaluate your mood. Perhaps you decide to put on a smile. Either way I’m guessing you pay attention. You take the moment to show yourself some love. 

When you smile in the mirror what do you see?

Your radiant self, of course, but is that all?

Can see your mum and dad? Your brothers and sisters? Your children and grandchildren? Maybe you can see your friends or strangers you’ve never met. Maybe you can see the eyes of millions, generations long since passed, staring back at you.

Look deeply enough and you’ll see far more than meets the eye.

If we look deeply at others we can see they reflect the world around them. If you smile at them, they often smile back. And if they don’t, we often drop our own. In this case we become their mirror.

This is something to be aware of. 

When we are mindless we become the mirrors of others. When others shout and harden their defences, we often do the same in response. Like a mirror image. So often in arguments you hear two people shouting with neither party listening. They might as well be shouting into a mirror. 

It’s worth bearing in mind that people don’t just act like mirrors to other people, they often reflect the way the world has treated them.

If the world stopped paying attention to them, they may reflect a lack of interest. If it treated them harshly they might act out in kind. The behaviours of someone often mirror something well beyond the person they’re interacting with.

This is something else to be aware of. 

This is one reason why we shouldn’t take what others have to say so personally. Other people’s behaviour doesn’t reflect in you unless you let it. Unless you act mindlessly.

On the flip side, when we are mindful we can influence what others reflect back at us and the wider world. When we are mindful we can disarm the anger thrown at us by others. When we are mindful we can stand firm and make sure all that is reflected is love and compassion. It is when others are feeling the most pain, and at their most vulnerable, that we have the best opportunity to act as mirrors to the good that exists in all of us.

We should pay the same care and attention we do ourselves in the mirror to all those we encounter. Show them the same love and compassion. Maybe don’t start flossing their teeth, of course, but show them love and compassion all the same. The love and compassion they need. That we all do. 

Showing love and compassion to others is one of the greatest acts of self love. This is because if you look deeply enough you’ll see that person is you. And you are them. As one. 

It’s nice when we see ourselves smiling isn’t it?


SOURCES:

I found the quote from the following article: Discover How Other People are Mirrors of Ourselves