Tag Archives: freedom

Free Safety

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?

Happy Tracking!

Love Rules

YOU CAN’T SAY, “YOU CAN’T PLAY.” (Vivian Gussin Paley, 1993)

It is true that I never had an opportunity to attend kindergarten. In fact, I never attended a school stratified by age until I was a teenager.

I grew up and learned within a family structure—at home and at school.

As the youngest of a farm family of six children, and the youngest by a few years, I was always included in the family activities. My brothers and sisters just took me along. It seemed natural to me.

Only once in my early life, as I recall, was I excluded from play. I believe I was told that there was one too many people in the sand box, and that that one was me. I did not understand.

This kind of thing did not happen in my home. It also did not happen at Sanborn Hill School. Everybody played—boys, girls, first graders and eighth graders, fast and slow.

Apparently this is not true in most kindergartens. As described by the author, children frequently told other children that they could not play. Some children were excluded from a lot of games and activities. It occurred to this veteran teacher that such exclusion seemed too harsh and not acceptable.

She made a rule that you can’t say, “You can’t play.”

Before installing the rule, the teacher discussed the rule with not only her class, but several other classes up to fifth grade. The children did not think it would work.

Here is the scary part: Older elementary students thought it might work for the little kids because they were nicer, but it wouldn’t work for the older kids.

My first conclusion is that children know that it is not nice to exclude people because you don’t like them or because they are not your friends.

My second conclusion is that children believe that they, themselves, are not nice—even though they were nice when they were small. There is a kind of fatalistic attitude of moral decline that the children see as outside of their control.

Parents, teachers, grandparents, this is our job. Children need the gift of rules. People need the gift of rules at any age. The big question becomes who shall make these rules?

Not children and not old people who act like children.

Vivian Gussin Paley’s experiment with this rule in her kindergarten class went well. Children loved it. Many continued the rule into adulthood.

There was a relief from the tyranny of exclusion, not only for those excluded, but for those who felt they had an obligation to exclude non-friends from activities with their friends—a palpable feeling of relief is how I heard the author describe the classroom after the rule came to be.

We can study and postulate social theory, but I think it is quite simple: Love feels good.

We all want to be good, kind, nice people. We just don’t know how. We don’t know the rules, or we are too weak to enforce them upon ourselves. True freedom in the form of individual agency depends upon a socially responsible ethic.

So, like me or not, “Do you want to play?”

God’s Art: Choice Freedom

For years, every test I gave to 9th grade science students had this question: True or False—The meaning of life is choice. Now, before you get excited, let me tell you two things about my tests. First, students were always invited to explain their answers on the test papers. Second, I gave them credit for any reasonable explanation. If a student chose false, I marked it wrong. If s/he gave a reason, such as, “I believe the meaning of life is Jesus Christ,” I changed the mark to correct. It was one of my ways of helping students from three different 8th grade schools to adjust to the realities of high school, the responsibility of
consequences of our choices.

In preparation for this post, I did a little “content” research on the topic of free will and quickly concluded I wanted no part of it. Western philosophy seems to dwell on hypothetical conjecture like postulating that if God is omniscient, then He knows what I will choose, and therefore, I really only imagine a choice. I choose to not pursue a Western philosophical content, today—at least it felt like a choice. Maybe it is a form of relativity.

Hartley Peavey believes he made a choice, or a series of choices. He chose to become a rock star with a guitar. When evidence convinced him that it would never happen, he made another choice, the one to stay involved in music by doing something he had already learned to do. He built amplifiers. Serendipity brought a salesman to his door who sold them. When retail sales were restricted by guitar manufacturers’ policies, he chose to build guitars as well. His choices resulted in the international multi-million dollar Peavey Electronics Corporation.

This “God’s Art” blog section is predicated on my choice to look for evidence of the nature of the universe, particularly the nature of the mystery, design, or principles, by looking at the physical evidence in Nature. Man is part of Nature. Man’s behavior, even as studied by psychology, is a part of Nature. In my mind, the ways we humans think, cognition, is a medium of God’s Art. We make choices. Therefore, God made us with the ability and propensity for choice.

True, not everything I am results from choice. I did not choose (as I recall) to be a WASP, but I was born into a poor, white Anglo-Saxon protestant farm family. I did not choose to be male or straight. I did not choose to be a reflective introvert, either. I don’t even believe I chose to be a liberal thinker. The combination of my personal nature and my experiences, many of them shaped by my early choices, causes me to evolve in a certain way, and here I am. Am I responsible for the way I am?

Yes. And, no. I can choose to accept me as I am, deny that I am this way, or work to grow into something different. I will never be a rock star. I will never be President of the United States. I will probably never be a Nobel or Pulitzer Prize winner. My beautiful yellow Labrador Retriever, Serenity, will never be a guard dog—she loves and trusts people too much.

Some people ponder and argue about whether or not humans have free will. Not me. I was once called a pragmatist, in a derogatory way, by a fellow graduate student in science. I guess I am. That’s why I look for God in Her art of Nature.

I look now at Serenity, curled comfortably on the carpet, and know that I have a choice to make because she is not at all comfortable. She is confused and in pain. Even if she recovers from this episode, her age, alone, is proof that a choice is imminent because our ethics do not permit us to watch our pets suffer the way I watched my mother suffer. The day will come, probably very soon, when Nancy and I will choose.

Not choosing is, itself, a choice. We have no choice about whether or not we choose.

I had wanted this blog to be fun and funny, especially after the last few downers, but life happens. I chose to share it with you. Choices about stuff in space and time define life.