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09/21/2006 Archived Entry: "Apples and freedom on a summer day"
ON THE LAST PLEASANT DAY OF SUMMER Pyramid Man and his son came to Cabin Sweet Cabin for a sit and chat. Pyramid Man is one of my favorite people, and I like his son just as much. Both are blessed with warm personalities and curious, wide-ranging, paradigm-challenging minds. Whatever subject arises, they'll both find something intriguing to say about it.
Even more fun, they'll say very different things. Pyramid Man is intuitive, a little New Agey. His son, on the other hand, presses the case for logic and reason. But both are so quick-thinking and such nice human beings, it's unfailingly fun to be with them.
This time they brought apples from their orchard, a big sack of them. Large green ones, tiny red ones. But all crisp and tasty, and so fresh they fired little projectiles of juice with each bite. Nothing like storeboughts.
And so we sat on the deck, looking over the view and talking about anything and everything. The son had just returned from Alaska, where he had observed traditional "cold smoking" methods of preserving salmon and spent time with a man who's owned his vast swath of coastal land since before Alaska became a state and who (whether through legal means or simply slipping between the legal cracks, I don't know) functions as a quasi-sovereign power. In the fascinating stories he told, he described a man who manages his land, life, and business as a lot of people once did before Rome-on-the-Potomac extended its reach.
Several times, as we relaxed and enjoyed the view, Pyramid Man commented on how good we all have it, even with the evils closing in on our country. Despite the laws, we enjoy our pleasures, mind our own business, pursue our pursuits. All our pursuits are harmless, even beneficial. Pyramid Man and his son both make the world better with their presence, and I think I've reached a point where I can say I do, too (it wasn't always so).
Yeah, some of our pursuits -- like some of everybody's pursuits -- are politically incorrect. But like millions of others out there, as long as we stay low-key, we're free to enjoy them.
It might be a piss-poor form of freedom, living between the laws. But it's the most satisfying form of freedom we're likely to enjoy in our lifetimes. So why not enjoy it in full?
There's a tendency among us world-improving types to think that as long as anyone anywhere is suffering injustice, then it's wrong for us to be happy. That it's irresponsible for us to be happy. That when we're relaxed and happy we're inevitably turning our backs on problems that must be addressed. I've even heard a few world-improvers state right out that as long as there's suffering anywhere in the world, then none of us have any right to be happy.
Part of me buys into that. But of course it's a trap. Since there's always suffering and injustice in the world, the attitude that we can never cease our labors until everyone else is happy (whether explicit or just a naggy feeling inside us that we must always do more) just ensures that everyone remains in a state of stress.
Worse, frantic, stressed people are more open to outside control by "experts" who promise solutions. Calm, centered, relaxed, and happy people (truly happy, not merely pleasently diverted or smugly self-satisfied) have the makings of freer people within them.
So there's a balance to be found ... the place where we can live our own lives in glorious full while still being conscious of the need to protect that glory from all the many forces that threaten it. The secret we don't let ourselves know often enough is that the more we can enjoy the glory, the better we're able to oppose injustice and heal suffering. Enjoying life, we understand better the kind of freedom we're aiming to achieve. We have more energy, and a healthier kind of energy, with which to aim our endeavors.
I keep coming back to that phrase from Eastern religion: to contend without contending. And that thoroughly Western counterpart: living well is the best revenge.
The great, great glory is that, despite the most onerous, outrageous laws Our Beloved Leaders inflict, despite the ugliest SWAT teams, the most authoritarian cops, the most anal-retentive bureaucrats in all their growing armies, we still control the things that count most: what kind of people we are and how we choose to view our lives.
That's truly a satisfying form of revenge on those obsessed with controling others. It's a victory for us and an utter, ignominious defeat for those with a will to rule.
Posted by Claire @ 08:37 AM CST