Freedom Through Restraint

During my life I have discovered that truth can be paradoxical. It can run counter to popular wisdom and simple logic. Take freedom for example. The popular wisdom is that freedom comes by casting off restraints and restrictions. On the surface this seems perfectly logical, and yet reality proves to be much different. Here are three examples:

Everyone has probably dreamed of casting off the restraints of gravity and flying through the air. However, what we are usually wishing is not that gravity would disappear, but that we could chose when gravity applied. Life would be terrifying if gravity disappeared. A wrong push here or shove there could send us floating helplessly into outer space. Someone you met one moment could be sent flying in the opposite direction the next. How would you ever find each other again or form a relationship? The only way would be to tether yourself to them with a rope. Gravity gives us the freedom to control where and how we move and who we spend time with.

Marriage is also viewed as restricting in contemporary culture. Yet there can be no authentic relationship where people are not bound by either spoken or unspoken rules. If no “gravity” existed in relationships than no one could be themselves without the fear that the other person might leave them. While one night stands appear to be the epitome of sexual freedom, they are only able to give the appearance of intimacy. There is no certainty that what you put into the relationship will have any lasting value. Every reason exist to hold back, to protect your true emotions by hiding them behind a wall. This “freedom” has its own kind of bondage by trapping people into a need to perform. What happens when one partner fails to satisfy the other? Marriage, on the other hand, gives freedom because two people decide to bind themselves to each other in the good times and bad. They can live without being a slave to fear because they know that the other person is to committed staying with them. Freedom exists to express oneself fully and become fully one with the other person. Likewise, divorce, which promises freedom, often ends us trapping people in a prison of fear, bitterness, and relational immaturity.

Poetry follows a similar principle. Dante wrote his Divine Comedy with a strict structure and rhyme scheme that most modern poets would consider constraining and suffocating. Yet the creative freedom that Dante displays is unparalleled. His ability of expression is not held back by the strictness. Somehow his expression is actually liberated by it.

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