Freedom and safety often seem to be opposites except for the fact that the key to both is discipline.
NOTE: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD and other past stress. We have looked at ten and leave one more for August. July is devoted to Discipline.
A Sandhill Crane wandered into our yard in the north woods this week and we watched it for an hour. It is not unusual to see them in the area, but we have never known one to walk into our camp, so it was a treat. I admire this creature’s freedom.
It moved slowly about, scratching and probing the ground for food. A little research revealed that they are opportunity eaters, feeding on plant and animal materials that are available. Our grounds seemed to offer ample fare to keep it occupied for so long; but there was no hurry. It sometimes paused for minutes, near motionless, perhaps attending to some shape or sound. Occasionally it stretched, flexed, groomed, and fluffed its feathers.
Alone in a forest glade with no demands on time, nowhere to go, no time to be there, and no tasks to complete. I love such freedom.
Could I wander alone, eating by opportunity and surviving by instinct and skill? I think I can.
Wilderness survival for humans requires skill. We will not live well on the food that feeds the crane. Our bodies have different requirements and vulnerabilities. We lack the protection of feathers or fur. We lack the sensory acuity of sight and sound, the physical prowess of fleet and flight, the instinct of eons of evolution. We have evolved to live by wit and skill, which is another way of saying discipline.
Yes, the Sandhill has discipline of watchfulness that offers safety, and that safety offers the freedom to roam, alone. Still, even cranes group together for dangerous activities such as migration. Like humans, they are social animals.
Society offers safety at the apparent expense of freedom. Peer pressure, cultural tradition, and laws provide a way to live in balance of freedom and safety–if we would have it.
The Green Bay Packers used a recent first round draft pick for a Free Safety, a position of apparent contradiction on the field. He provides some safety as a last resort while exercising the freedom of choice. Ah, but freedom of choice is an obligation that requires great discipline. He has rules. He reads the actions of the opposing offensive players and reacts, not instinctively, but by a doctrine of the playbook. If he fails to read correctly or his discipline breaks down, well, the other team scores.
If the crane’s discipline breaks down, well, it dies–and some coyote lives.
I love to wander in the woods. Sometimes I get a little lost. I might get really lost someday, but that is alright.
For many people, wandering alone in the great north woods would be foolish freedom. Indeed, most people do not have the freedom to wander in the woods as I do because, for them, it is unsafe. For me, it is an invigorating risk because I have studied and trained in wilderness survival. I know the discipline. I have studied the playbook. I can build shelter, find safe water, make fire, and gather food. Most importantly, I am comfortable in the woods so that I am unafraid. That discipline of basic survival attitude and skill provides both relative safety and freedom to enjoy.
Discipline is following rules. That is all. Basically, it means student as a disciple, one who follows.
Do you have a way of life? A playbook?
Discipline is not my strength, but I do work at it. For me, the most important freedom each day is the ability to choose my playbook, my way, my Master. Discipline is making that choice.
Deep down inside you, can you find tracks of the Master of your playbook?