April 24, 2020

"Freedom" by Frederick Bueckner

to the degree that the master whom we obey 
grants it to us in return for our obedience. 
We do well to choose a master 
in terms of how much freedom we get 
for how much obedience.
To obey the law of the land 
leaves us our constitutional freedom, 
but not the freedom 
to follow our own consciences wherever they lead.
To obey the dictates of our own consciences 
leaves us freedom from the sense of moral guilt, 
but not the freedom to gratify 
our own strongest appetites.
To obey our strongest appetites 
for drink, sex, power, revenge, or whatever 
leaves us the freedom of an animal 
to take what we want when we want it, 
but not the freedom of a human being to be human.
The old prayer speaks of God 
"in whose service is perfect freedom." 
The paradox is not as opaque as it sounds. 
It means that to obey Love itself, 
which above all else wishes us well, 
leaves us the freedom to be the best 
and gladdest that we have it in us to become. 
The only freedom Love denies us 
is the freedom to destroy ourselves ultimately.
-Originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words