Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Freedom is ambiguous

Reading ahead a little in the chapter on freedom in Is It Possible to Live This Way? I came across the following passage, which resonates for me as I consider Sharon's challenge:
Only in the companionship are you recalled to this fascination with being or this awareness of our own fragility due to something that is a choice -- to be able to choose is a good, but to be able to choose evil is an evil, therefore it's ambiguous. Freedom isn't in a bad position; it's in a position that is still ambiguous. (page 78)
At this particular moment there are any number of things that I could be doing: I could be down in the backyard with my two youngest daughters, who are there picking strawberries together; I could be cleaning my kitchen; I could be preparing for our outing to the swimming pool; I could be putting my tomato seedlings in the ground...I have so many options, all of which are good and necessary. So why I am here, typing?

The companionship I discover among bloggers is no substitute for the community of my family and near neighbors that surrounds me. And yet, it is undeniable that the friends I have here, on the internet, are real; their companionship is real, also made of flesh and blood. This companionship truly does recall me to a "fascination with being" and an "awareness of my own fragility" in ways that are just as necessary and vital to my life as are the ways of my proximate community.

Speaking and writing are two different methods of expression, and each are necessary to life. I can say things in writing that I cannot say in speech; and I can understand things that I read that escape me when I hear them spoken out loud. Of course, each of the preceding statements may be reversed! To remove the possibility of reading/writing would mean to diminish me and impoverish my relationships with others.

What if, like Jean-Dominique Bauby, I were stricken with Locked-In syndrome? Perhaps, if my faculties went unused, they would atrophy. And yet, if I, like Bauby, could communicate somehow, I would work with what I had, even if it were only a single eyelid that could still blink. Since I am not locked in, however, not to use all that has been bestowed on me, would be to maim myself. It is a moral imperative that I use all of my humanity. To paraphrase something St. Paul said, my mouth cannot tell my hand, "I don't need you" and my ears cannot tell my eyes, "You're unnecessary."

I can (and do!) waste time doing any number of things that are worthwhile and socially acceptable. Any time that we just go through the motions or live our duties with resentment or forgetfulness, we are wasting our lives and the lives of those who are forced to put up with us. Or, at the very least, we are reducing them. To be fully alive, we have to be aware, we have to seek the meaning in all we do. And we can't be aware or seek meaning on our own. At least I know that I can't. I have a need, so deep and so real that it makes me tremble to think about it, for this companionship (a companionship which includes those I see and speak with, those with whom I write, and those rare few with whom I can do both), in which I can be fully myself and fully alive, using not only my ears and mouth, but my hands and eyes as well. I am called back to the knowledge that all the hairs on my head are counted when I am present here with my blogging friends, but in a way that is different and equally vital as the way I am called by the faces and eyes of those with whom I speak.

I am convinced that the commitment I have to my blogging companionship is just as important as the commitment I make to my School of Community. Each is a commitment to Christ, alive and active and incarnate in my life.

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