Monday, April 22, 2013

Deciding to Lose Freedom

Freedom is widely perceived as a purely good thing. It is most often defined as the ability to act as one wants, lacking external restraints and regulations.

A small thought experiment will introduce my premise. You are fully free, and you are facing a decision between freedom and imposing restraints on your future self. Would you not instantly decide for freedom?

Yet, we often are happiest when we have placed restraints on ourselves. When we have decided to do so, when we have decided to allow external control over part of our lives. Marriage, for example, can be seen as a decision to restrict your future actions. Ignoring legal and financial advantages, many would nevertheless, happily decide to bind themselves to one person for the rest of their lives. The breaking of such a restriction would result in negative consequences, perhaps social, perhaps legal, perhaps otherwise. Another example could be the restriction of alcohol consumption on the self. Simply an imposed diet, an exercise routine, or a sleeping schedule, also match the criteria. Perhaps a dream of talent is supported by forcing bi-daily practice. Perhaps actions are taken to introduce negative consequences if these things do not happen.

Freedom of people are lost through such decisions, however, it has not stopped them from achieving their dreams. It has guided them, it has provided consistency and removed impulsiveness. It has set a framework for the future self.

We are often so quick to judge those which give up their freedom, yet exactly such myopic vision prevents us from seeing advantages in restriction. We are scared of truly deciding, of truly living.

It is like the horse (桂馬) in Shogi. Every turn, the horse has the decision of two open moves. Taking one removes the possibility of ever taking the other. Yet, the horse steadily moves forward after every decision, and upon reaching the other side, is granted a more flexible set of motions.

No comments: