As the US goes to the polls to decide on mid-term challenges to the political landscape, the issue of freedom versus control is really what’s on the ballot. It’s always really about that. No matter what the time in history, there will be those calling for more management and control, and those arguing to be left alone to do their own thing.
The problem is that freedom and control are not merely opposites. Sometimes, freedom requires controls, and controls can set you free.
Let me explain this with a short fable.
Once upon a time, there were two birds. One lived inside a warm, cozy house, protected by a cage, and fed daily. The other bird was outside in the wild, weathering the elements, and constantly looking for food.
One day, the owner of the caged bird decided to let the bird see what was outside, and placed the cage on the window sill. The outside bird saw the inside bird near the window, and flew over. The two birds looked inquisitively at one another. Then one began to chirp.
“”You’re stuck inside that cage,” the outside bird said. “How will you get out?”
The caged bird replied, “Why would I want to get out? I have everything I need.”
“But don’t you need to be free? You’re stuck in a cage. You can’t fly anywhere you want, like I can.”
“Why would I want to fly anywhere? I have everything I need. And flying is dangerous. In fact, my owner clips my wings so I can’t fly. But that makes me safer. If I fly, I die.”
“You only think that because you never experienced the freedom of flying and deciding where to go to look for food.”
“But I don’t need to look for food. My owner provides for all my needs. My food and water bowls are refilled each day. But you, outside in the wild, need to find food, and you may go hungry and die.”
“That’s true. I am sometimes hungry, and it feels great when I find food. My biggest concern is the cat next door. I guess you’re lucky to be safe inside that cage.”
“Oh, I’m safe and well cared for, so long as my owner wants me. I also overheard the owner talking about getting a cat. The last cat jumped on my cage and almost killed me. Thank goodness I was safe inside this cage. But the other day, my cage door was left open by mistake. If there was a cat, it would have been the trash bin for me. Maybe you’re luckier being outside and free, so you can fly away when attacked.”
The two birds chattered on about the merits of being cared for inside a cage versus the benefits of being free and wild, until they both realized that each was free. The caged bird felt the freedom from concerns, with all its needs met. The wild bird felt the freedom of self-direction, allowing it to meet its needs by itself.
But they also both realized that each of them were unfree.
The caged bird was obviously at the mercy of its owner, who controlled its life. Losing one’s freedom is the price of being carefree and letting others control you.
The wild bird was free, but also at the mercy of Nature and its demands. The constant demands of finding food, water, and safety robs one of freedom. You may be free to do whatever you want, but needs come first.
On the other hand, there are some benefits to being controlled. The bird in the cage had extra energy, since all it did was eat. So it learned how to do tricks with its owner. It learned to speak and say what the owner wanted it to say. Its entire life depended on pleasing the owner. It was a pet and loved being cared for, until it was ignored and began feeling food insecurity.
The bird in the wild spent much of its time finding food, which it enjoyed doing. It also enjoyed finding other birds, one of whom became its mate. They had chicks, which they raised together. Nature provided the challenges and the instincts, and the birds had no choice but to be wild and free, except when there were predators and famine, at which time they felt oppressed and wished that they had someone to feed them in a safe, warm cage.
The birds discussed all this and then decided to say goodbye. The wild bird flew away. As it flew, a hawk swooped down from above and attacked. It’s a bird-eat-bird world, and the hawk was very happy to find food that day.
The bird in the cage saw the attack and thanked its stars that it was protected inside its cage. Just then, a cat entered the room.
Being free does not guarantee anything but choice, which is always limited by one’s reality and awareness.
Being caged does not guarantee anything but being out of control, which is always limiting of one’s reality and awareness.
Those who feel free may actually be controlled, and those who feel controlled may actually be free.
The Moral of the Story:
Life requires both freedom and control, and it’s up to you to decide on the balance.