Freedom and Justice

During the French Resistance against the Nazis, a leader of the resistance was captured. One dawn as the firing squad sounds greeted him, guards took him to the commander.

“Tell us where the leader is and we will set you free. Otherwise, you are next in front of the firing squad,” he said.

The man thought for a moment, then shrugged his shoulders, and told them that if they would go to such-and-such graveyard behind one exactly detailed gravestone, they would find the leader of the French Resistance hiding. They left him back in his cell. They returned a short time later and set him free.

He had made up that entire story. But that is exactly where the leader was.

This is a story by Sartre, if I remember correctly. Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus (al-ber cam-oo) were leading French intellectuals before and after the war. Exponents of a philosophy called existentialism, they wrestled with the sometimes conflicting issues of freedom and justice. I was reminded of this recently by an essay on Big Think blog.

Such was my reading when I was at university. I started graduate school to further read in this, then chucked it all and went back to a career in technology.

What is freedom?

Some very vocal people have the opinion that requiring the wearing of masks to stop the spread of a nasty virus is an infringement of their freedom. People who have wrestled with this problem of freedom intellectually and with their lives would think that opinion taking the concept far too lightly.

Spiritual thinkers, writers, practitioners for millennia have pondered the same problems of freedom. The Apostle Paul wrote his ideas in the letter to the Galatians. Essentially living a life with the spirit is living free.

It’s not an accident of nature like the existentialists imagined. It’s not adolescent rebellion against being told what to do. It is being filled with the spirit and building practices to maintain that filling of spirit that gives us a life of freedom. Try it.

[I’m not putting down the political and activist versions of trying to be free. I just believe it really must start within or it eventually becomes another form of authoritarianism. That was the eventual dispute between Sartre and Camus.]

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