The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Liberty and freedom

During the day, I’ve seen myself play and search for limits. It has been a fun and enriching experience. And yet, at the end of the day, I wondered what had happened.

It was a workshop and I let myself use a lot of spontaneity. Adding remarks here and there. Confronting authority and given ideas. All of this in a good and entertaining atmosphere where humor was welcome.

We had started the day giving ourselves rules, principles, and permissions describing how we all would engage into the workshop. The distinction between rules and principles is one which is important for me. Especially as both will often be confused. In essence, principles are what we engage into doing and which can’t be verified. Rules can be verified which also means that they need to be connected with a sanction. Both require trust, but only rules can be enforced.

For some reason, seeing how we started with the usual confusion between both made me angry. At the same time, that very anger (unconsciously) helped me to explore the breadth of my liberty using my spontaneity.

It also made me curious and I set out to investigate.

As I’m writing this blog in English, I asked myself what the difference between freedom and liberty may be.

The fascinating detail I discovered was that English distinguishes between both and integrated the concepts existing in Latin (Libertas) and in Germanic or Norse (Frei). English thus has a nuance French and German don’t have.

Researching the words also lead to seeing a difference between the point of view from which these words are described.

Having freedom is described as having the aggregate benefits and protections provided by society. And it also is something which cannot be taken away from as Viktor Frankl famously described: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way (in how he approaches his circumstances).”

Society can provide freedom, but it is up to you to decide if you give it up or not.

Liberty, on the other hand, is the idea to be unencumbered. Which also means to be free “within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views”.

Liberty is something you have unless it is taken away from you. You can decide to take it or not.

Applying these ideas to myself I discovered what I have I’ve been up to today. I was playing with my liberty. I was seeking to understand if the group I was participating in had an authority seeking to impose restrictions. It was a way of testing if the freedom to act we had agreed upon would be taken away from me.

In essence, I was doing what children do: test the boundaries and stability of the structure. I was testing what would happen while taking ownership of my freedom to think, have my ideas and chose my attitude. I was investigating the amount of political correctness our group was installing.

It’s been a good day. That is because I’m finding a way out of the conditioning we’ve received to be right and the necessity to succeed in the next test. That is, to comply with norms which are not written, which are unwritten rules in our culture. It’s especially interesting in times in which performance and success seek to shape the way we perceive others and ourselves.



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