HOW FREE IS FREE

IN HELD TWAS IN I—-In the darkness of the night, only occasionally relieved by glimpses of Nirvana as seen through other people’s windows, wallowing in a morass of self-despair made only more painful by the knowledge that all I am is of my own making …When everything around me, even the kitchen ceiling, has collapsed and crumbled without warning. And I am left, standing alive and well, looking up and wondering why and wherefore.

Sacrifices, human or otherwise, have
been around forever. They are natural consequences of the
percept/product continuum.

Keaau Beach, Hawaii
June ‘73

Another possible answer to my inquiry concerning: “Why I did
what I did” is that “I am free to do what I do.” But, again, how free is free? In order to better understand “who I am,” or “what I can
become,” I had to take a closer look at the limitations of my own
freedom—the limitations of “my free will.”

As a conscious being, I am always conscious of something. I integrate that “something” into my knowledge base, and form conclusions based on that knowledge. The statement, “Every percept is a product,” describes that process. Nietzsche said, “Everything is interpretation.” He was right! All my perceptions and ideas are products of something else. Through rational inquiry, I extend my grasp of perceptions and ideas, but that doesn’t change anything; it is just another one of my possibilities.

The most universal of all perceptions is found in the pleasure/pain
response, but even that response falls into the category of
“percept/product.” One person’s pleasure was another’s pain. Good and evil are caught in the same predicament. Good is a benefit; bad is a pain. The altruistic rebuttal, or “doing for others,” falls squarely
into the pleasure/pain response category. “If it feels good, do it.”
Group sanctioned good, “morality,” is percept/product in its most
obvious form. Behave in a way that is not appropriate to your “class” and risk the pain of ostracism (or worse). Percept/products take place along  a continuum. At one end is the pleasure/pain response; at the other end  are found responses based on expediency and “group utility”—family,  city, state, nation, and/or global interests.

Along the medium range of the continuum are found
responses of a more personal variety, usually demonstrated within a “self-interested sub-cultural context.” For instance, “we” like to
listen to progressive rock music and smoke good dope. “We’ve” learned what to like and how to enjoy ourselves. “We’ve” learned how to maximize our pleasure and how to respond appropriately to a given situation. “We” know, for instance, that everybody hates Nixon. “We” have chosen as friend’s people who respond “like us” to wider sets of values in a similar way. “We” are the product of our choices, and “we” have chosen to live the “patterned existence” that has brought us to our present situation.

Values, the values of individuals, are society’s values; yet, as
individuals, we think we are capable of transcending those values. “He is his own man,” the cliché goes. It is for this reason that we are
shocked when we read about Nazi atrocities, or “witch burnings,” or
cannibalisms. We cannot conceive how a “mentally balanced person” could participate in that kind of behavior. But, butchery, all forms of butchery, need only the slightest “head nod” from the “appropriate authority” in order to explode on the scene; be it mob violence, religious persecution, or Mei Lai type massacres.

For the most part, we are not conscious of the “cultural signals” that
affect us. We take for granted, for instance, the most horrible of
evils, nuclear holocaust. Many of us, on both sides of the Iron
Curtain, would willingly push the button rather than live under the
“yoke” of the other’s ideology. Of course, the capitalists are right,
and the communists are right. That is a cultural given. All
percept/products are inherently justifiable (otherwise they couldn’t
exist). So, here we are with a cultural percept that “rationalizes” the
extinction of all life. Because of this, should we look for a way out
of the percept/product box? Of course we should! But, are we doing so? No! It is better to blow up the world than live with commie
devils. The best minds in the world have brought us to this point, and those same minds would gladly be the first to push the button if they thought the “bad guys” would die in the process. Should we be aghast by all this? Not in the least! Sacrifices, human or otherwise, have been around forever. They are natural consequences of the
percept/product continuum. Some things have to be sacrificed in order to produce the “good” and the “right”—all products of the percept/product continuum. There is no escape from the percept/product box; Or Is There?

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About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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3 Responses to HOW FREE IS FREE

  1. eof737 says:

    “For the most part, we are not conscious of the “cultural signals” that
    affect us. ‘ Is it unconsciousness or a denial/refusal to give more thought to those signals? Sure, many have given in to the chatter and no longer form opinions of their own, but many of us are sifting through the stuff and checking in with our BS meter even if we say nothing… 🙂
    You raise lots of pithy questions here… Keep writing! 🙂

    • bwinwnbwi says:

      In terms of what works and satisfies each and every one of us, one cannot escape the “cultural signals” that affect us. However, when you asked the question: “Is it unconsciousness or a denial/refusal to give more thought to those signals?” you momentary sidestepped those “cultural signals.” People who ask too many questions are put at risk (or much worse) in societies where freedom of speech–the freedom to question the status quo– is reserved only for the yea-Sayers, as opposed to nay-Sayers. And, I might add, people who ask too many questions are rarely invited to parties. Thanks for the support!

  2. bwinwnbwi says:

    The nature of freedom is such that it must move into new areas of experience or cease to exist. If you pick up a book on ecology you will find that there is hardly a space on this planet where some organism has not gained a foothold. In this sense, freedom is spatially extended, but freedom is not limited by space. As the complexity of freedom increases, new dimensions of experience become possible. Life, after achieving a sufficient complexity, gives rise to a new dimension of reality, the human dimension. “We”, the human species (the dividing line separating species is always gray area), are this experience—the experience of the experience of the experience of freedom—freedom raised to the third power.

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