Wednesday, July 1, 2020

On Freedom

The current anti-lockdown protests highlight something very deep about our modern view of 'freedom'. This is the idea that 'freedom' is the ability to do whatever we want whenever we want, no matter the consequences. From the yogic perspective, the human desire to follow every impulse, no matter how harmful, no matter how socially and psychically disruptive, is the exact opposite of freedom. It means being at the whims of our basest impulses, which, when magnified across an entire society or world, generally doesn't tend to work out so well. This mindset of 'I get to do whatever I want whenever I want it and no one can tell me otherwise' is on full display in the anti-lockdown protests, but it is not the sole domain of the far right and libertarians. It also permeates and underpins neoliberal capitalist culture in general. Hence - trade without human rights considerations, free movement of capital without regard for local communities and environments, billionaires who don't pay taxes. Yet this type of 'freedom' is not free of the laws of cause and effect - and every freedom happens within the context of a larger order, the order of nature. The deep interconnected web of the natural world is based much less on what we call 'freedom' and is much closer to what we call 'harmony.' Shifting, interlocking relationships that, in their relationship, make up a whole that is ultimately dependent upon each part. This is the same harmony that makes for good music. If you've ever been part of a really bad drum circle, everyone just playing whatever they want whenever they want, then you understand the consequences of the modern American view of 'freedom.' It's called chaos. The good music comes when people understand their responsibility to the whole composition, and each contributes accordingly, and within the structure of the song, there is breathing space enough for each to express fully, and find ecstatic freedom, within structural harmony rather than outside of it. - Josh Schrei