God, You and Your Influence

Just a few days ago, when I was outside my house under the light of a bulb, I noticed how perfectly this analogy can be used to describe our influence or our impact on this world.

The illustration is really simple. The closer you are to the bulb, the bigger your shadow. The bulb symbolizes God, you are you and the shadow is your influence. So, the closer you are to God, the bigger impact you can make on this world.

When I was thinking about the same, I thought, if this illustration is true, then maybe, to some extent, some of us are laboring after wrong things. For example, we spend time organizing big programs, we prepare big speeches then we go out and try to gather people to come to our big programs and hear our big speeches. And I am not against all these things, my question to myself and all of us is that, in doing all these things, have we forgotten about the one for whom we are doing all these things? Has seeking God became a thing secondary to all these things. In doing all these things, have we stopped moving closer to the God?

A study about freedom

For past few weeks, I have been pondering upon the subject of freedom. I have been asking myself different questions about it. And through this questions I have learned a great deal about freedom(at least, I like to think so). I have found some things that are absolutely astounding. So, in this post I’d like to tell you what I have learned.

In this study of freedom, I’d like to present to you six different topics. The topics that I will be presenting are not very hard to understand. In fact, in our daily lives, we deal with each one of these topics. However, for this particular post, we’ll see how these topics are related to freedom. Pay close attention, because they are integral in understanding the nature of freedom. So, without further delay, let’s begin.

  1. Pleasure
  2. Time span
  3. Dominion
  4. Will
  5. Allowance
  6. The Law

As you can see, this is not rocket science. So, let’s look at each one briefly.

First, pleasure. We all know what pleasure is. Dictionary defines it as “the state of feeling of being pleased”. You feel pleased when things happen as you’d like them to happen. Everyone loves being pleased. Everyone loves pleasures. But we are talking about freedom today. So the question arises, what does pleasure have to do with freedom? Well, let me ask you another question. Why do you want freedom? Is it not because you would like to do as you please? So, freedom is the means to the end that is pleasure. That’s how freedom and pleasure are related.

Now let’s move on to the next one. Time span. We know what time span means. Immediate, short term, long term and other such phrases that describe the amount of time. The point I’d like to make here is this: The freedom to do something and then stop doing it must be long term and not only immediate. What do I mean by it? It’d be better to look at an example. Smoking. In the beginning you are free to choose if you want to smoke or not. However, the more and more you smoke, more and more you become addicted to it. At the same time it destroys your lungs. So once you are addicted, if you want to stop, you can’t just stop on a whim. After you are addicted it’s not about just a choice. It takes much more than a choice to quit smoking. So, basically we can say that you are no longer free. So time span is very important. Any activity that harms you can not be called “free”. But that leads us to the next topic. Which is dominion.

Dominion is the power or the ability to control or dominate someone. A power that comes by dominating the subject. By force. A person under dominion of any power is no longer free. Dominion is the end of freedom. For our example about smoking, the person might want to quit smoking but because he is addicted to it, he can not quit it just like that. He needs to go to some rehab or needs to have more pills or needs to have a very strong will power to quit smoking. He needs to fight to overcome his addiction. He has lost his freedom. So, any kind of “freedom” that leads to dominion can not be real freedom, but only an illusion.

Let’s move on to the next topic. When we were talking about dominion, I used the concept of “will power”. We know what it is. “Will” can be described as a “wish” or “ambition”. When someone says “I will do it.” It means that the person who is saying, “I will” desires to “do it”(whatever “it” may be). He/she is expressing his/hers personal preference towards the action which is “it”. So how does the will relate to freedom? Well, in the “real” world, there are certain things that are “willed” or “desired” by more than one person. There are conflicts of will.

For example, suppose you have two kids. They both love eating cakes. So one day, you buy some cakes from a nearby bakery and go home. Everyone in your family eats some cakes. Especially your kids. However, now you are in a situation where there is only one cake in the box but both of your kids want it. They both will to eat the cake. What can be the solution here? Either one of them gives up the cake or both of them eat half of the cake or you can go and buy more cakes. But both of them can not eat the same cake whole. Conflicts like that happen every day. My point is, when the conflict is resolved, is the “will” being overridden forcefully by someone else? If so, the person’s freedom is taken away and is being dominated by someone else. That’s what dominion is all about.

Conflicts of will are as real as you are reading this. Until we have infinite resources, we can not avoid these conflicts. We must resolve them. How can we resolve such conflict without taking away one’s freedom? I present my answer to you in the next topic.

The solution is allowance. If I may be so bold, let me say, allowance is the source of freedom. Without someone(including yourself) allows you to do something, you are not free to do it. One may allow oneself or the other to do something. For our example, where two kids are fighting for the last piece of the cake, suppose that the older one gives up on the cake because the younger one has started crying for it. The older one allows the younger one to have the cake because for him, the happiness of his younger sibling is much more important than him eating the whole cake. So, the freedom of the younger one to do as he pleases is granted to him by the older one. So then, let’s move on to the final topic.

The law. The law is a collection of rules for a certain community or society. It is a list of thing that one is allowed to do. Only on a much bigger scale than we dealt with in the previous topic. Maybe the relationship between allowance and law is like the relationship of a bee to the beehive. A single kid out of love to his younger brother allow him to have the whole cake. However, when bigger kids(widely known as “adults”) fight, who is going to resolve the conflict? Surely, both of them are not going to get what they were fighting for(if both of them could get it, they wouldn’t be fighting. Would they?). However, somebody’s freedom shouldn’t be compromised unjustly. That is the function of the law in the society. We might say, the law is the guardian of the freedom.

You may ask, doesn’t the law restrict us from doing some things? If it restricts, how can it be the guardian of freedom which means free from restrictions? My answer is this: because we do not have infinite resources, there will be conflicts of will. To resolve these conflicts, someone must be restricted. The function of the law is to make sure that the wrong person is not restricted. For example, a thief likes your new bike and wants to make it his own. So here, if you don’t have the law to restrict the thief from stealing, then when the thief steals your bike you have no claim over your bike. Just because he want it and have aquired it by stealing it, without law, it is his. But we do not live in a world without a law. That is why, everyone who follows the law is free. However whoever breaks the law comes under judgment and is no longer free until he has paid the price of breaking the law.

Here, I’d like to make one more point. When I say, the law is the guardian of the freedom, I mean it. Literally. If you do not have the law, freedom can not exist. Think for a second. If you remove every single law or restriction then would you be able to give any definition to freedom? Wouldn’t freedom be meaningless? So, the law not only guards the freedom, it also defines it. As strange it sounds, that’s the conclusion I have reached in my study of freedom. But this is not over yet!

Let’s summarize the main points of each topic.

  1. Freedom is the means to the end that is pleasure.
  2. The freedom to do something and then stop doing it for a good reason must be long term and not immediate.
  3. Any kind of freedom that leads to dominion must not be real freedom, but only an illusion.
  4. Conflicts of will must be resolved in a manner that preserves the freedom of the individuals.
  5. Allowance is the source of freedom.
  6. The law :
    • The law is the guardian of freedom.
    • Everyone who follows the law is free. However, whoever breaks the law comes under judgment and not free until he has paid the price of breaking the law.
    • The law not only guards the freedom. It also defines it.

So, that’s what I understand about freedom. That’s what I think freedom is all about. Now that we have understood how the machine called freedom works, let’s see what we can do with it.

We as humans find ourselves in possession of free will. As we saw, allowance is the source of freedom. So, there must be someone who has allowed us to be free. However, even more mind boggling is the idea that behind this gift of freedom there must be a purpose.

Just as the elder brother gave the cake to the younger one for his pleasure, and in his younger brother’s joy he found his own pleasure, the one who gave us this freedom must, in some way, be pleased with his gift to us. So what can we do with this freedom?

There are only two things we can do with this cake called freedom. Either eat it, or you throw it away. We can either give it up for just an illusion of freedom or you can keep it safe with you and enjoy it. When I read the bible, I find it so amazing that the same God who created the heavens and the earth and the whole physical realm, also gave me freedom to explore it. The God of the bible is a spirit. He did not need to create all the different galaxies and the rainbow colored stars. He created all those beautiful things just for his creation who were going to dwell in the physical realm. He could have created just the earth and the sun and the moon and it would have been sufficient.

But whatever he does, he never does a mediocre job. Whatever he does, it is extraordinary. It is excellent. It is brilliant. Just like that older brother has pleasure out of the joy of the his younger sibling eating the cake, it seems to me that when we explore this world, and when we get awe-struck by the beauty and the intricate design of things and say “wow”, somewhere he is watching. He is smiling. That leads me to conclude that the greatest of the freedoms that he gave us is the freedom to worship him.