FREEDOM 101: POWER OF FREEDOM
God constantly tests our faithfulness by inviting us to carry out His will. In so doing, we exercise our responsible use of freedom. We either say “yes” or “no” to His will. Many reduce their response to just nice words. In today’s Gospel parable Jesus emphasizes that what matters most is what we say with our actions. Let us examine the Anatomy of Freedom we all aspire for in order that we may all be discerning of the many eternal manipulations around us.
Ama-gi, in cunieform (above) is an ancient Sumerian word thought to mean “freedom“; believed to be the first expression of the concept in the history of writing. Literally translated, it means “return to the mother”, because the former slaves were “returned to their mothers” (i.e., freed). The English word “freedom” comes from an Indo-European root and Old English “frēon” that means “to love.” This is the same root for friend, “frēond.” Note that both meanings connote “love.”
Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. (Catechism of Catholic Church,no.1731). It consists in favourable living circumstances, i.e., freedom realized in the circumstances around the individual (external) and the freedom which lies within oneself (internal).
III. The Anatomy of Freedom
There is no question that freedom is something good in itself. The more freedom the better! But what are the kinds of freedom? And how do they come into play in the making of a Christian choice? (These types are the ones proposed by an American Thomist who is not a Catholic: Mortimer Adler. Fr Wilder, OP, my philosophy professor in Rome added adeontic freedom.)
General: External and Internal Aspects
External Freedom concerns circumstances outside the individual. The Internal Freedom concerns the core, most fundamental elements inside the heart of the individual. In this outline, we start from out to in, external to internal. The numberings will facilitate our discussion.
4º Circumstantial Freedom (Physical) is the availability of good things in the world in which you find yourself (physical freedom), i.e., if you have food available to you enjoy the freedom to eat and to enjoy the food! If you are not confined to a jail, you have the freedom to move around. If you have the availability of good music in your environment, you have the freedom of enjoying it. These physical objects in your circumstances constitute a very important freedom.
But there is another freedom in the context of circumstantial freedom which we now add to Adler’s division:
3º Adeontic Freedom. (from Gk., a+deontos, without+duty) is the kind of freedom from being obliged to do something. When I’ve prepared my lessons, done my prayers, done my exercises, when I’ve visited the sick brother in the house, I have fulfilled all the things that I’m obliged to do, I have 10 minutes maybe wherein nothing is
obliging me to do something more, i.e., the weight of obligation to which I must respond is not impinging upon me.
The freedom to listen to Mozart or Led Zeppelin, or to read the History of Armenia, or go for a walk and watch rabbits in the garden, that kind of freedom is what adeontic freedom is all about, that which consists in my not being obliged to do anything. It is freedom from something in order to be free for other things. This is also a genuine good. Not to say that the things I must do are not goods in themselves as well, but I am simply free not to respond in this case.
There is an internal freedom of two types:
2º Acquired Freedom. This is freedom to act easily according to what is impinging upon me, a kind of disposition to act easily according to the way I should, depending on the virtues, values, principles I acquired in life. This is an essential component in decision making because it involves the probing, testing, the processing of the choices I am inclined to make with my:
1º Innate Freedom. Thisis the freedom of Free Choice which is the ability to choose this or that, to do something whether it is obligatory or non-obligatory, from one’s own initiative in such a way that one is not forced and one spontaneously does it. Very important: Obviously, these innate freedom MUST be subordinated and coordinated with the Acquired freedom, otherwise, there will be no rational basis for any choice!
Let’s see how the process is applied to the Gospel Parable of Jesus. The first son was asked by his father to go to work in his vineyard, the son first says:
►”NO!” – 1º Innate Freedom – his initial reaction. Karapatan niyang sumot ng “No,” probably, instinct, raw and quick, like a predator choosing a weaker pack animal for prey over the quickest and strongest.
►Initially, he skips 2º Acquired Freedom! That was a wrong move! Kaya:
►“I don’t have to work today,” maybe he thought to himself. – 3º Adeontic Freedom – He wanted to be freed from something irresponsibly misusing adeontic freedom.
►”I have other higher paying jobs available!” – Again, maybe he thought to himself. – 4º Circumstantial Freedom – obviously, the logical conclusion is not to go.
BUT, what happened after some thought was that, unlike the second son who said YES but did not go, this 1st son re-processed his initial choice of “NO,” subjecting it to 2º Acquired Freedom’s processing: maybe he realized later on: “Hey, but I love my dad! What am I doing?” Thus, he changed course!
WARNING: Our Circumstantial and Adeontic freedoms are easy targets of manipulations by people, especially those who have the glory, gold and the guns. It is no secret that some politicians may even enact laws offering wider and bigger room for the exercise of material, physical circumstantial freedom of choice (albeit couched in deceptive legal jargon) to stimulate the raw instinct of the people’s innate freedom to choose without the due process and benefit of the Acquired Freedom. Imminent Laws like these should be critically examined! Any enacted law (even when adjudged by the Supreme Court as morally binding) that offers negative forms of freedom that confuse freedom with license and legal availability of unethical physical, medical and intellectual procedures in utter disregard of the fact that freedom is Virtue-centered, Value-oriented, and rooted in Responsible Love is not morally binding by Christian Standards. MAG BANTAY TAYO ng KONSIYENSA!