Most of us claim we want freedom to do as we please. Yet throughout history we see examples of individuals and civilizations alike fighting for freedom only to gravitate back to states of oppression. Whether we describe the Hebrews asking Moses to be their king after leading them out of Egypt, American revolutionaries asking George Washington to be king of the new nation, or an angry 4 year old packing his suitcase with peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and stomping out the door to face the world on his own (only to turn around at the street corner and run back to mom because a scary dog barked at him), the fact remains that most of our lives are torn between our desire for freedom to do as we please, and our need to be part of a larger, more organized herd. No doubt, we find safety in numbers. We also find comfort in the simplicity of a life in which at least a few of the complex decisions that must be made each day are guided by others. We like law and order. We like security. We don’t like having a lot of decisions to make, and we like having help. We also like to do what we want to do when we want to do it. The trick to finding happiness, then, seems to lie in finding balance between our desire for freedom and our need for the support others provide. Three guidelines will help you find balance between life lived your way, and life lived in the security and companionship of others that society can provide.
Let Time-Honored Principles Guide your Actions
Society at large tends to be governed by detailed laws. Unfortunately, the more laws that govern a society, the greater the odds that those laws will inhibit life itself, along with liberty, and our pursuit of happiness. For example, laws intended to make milk safe by requiring pasteurization, also denature the bioactive enzymes that contribute to the nourishment raw milk provides. Minimum wage laws intended to benefit low wage earners actually force businesses to cut staff and demand that more work be accomplished in less time. This practice not only eliminates jobs for some low wage earners, it also increases job stress and stress-related health problems for those who remain employed. To offer one more example: public health laws mandating vaccines intended to prevent disease that can cause death or disability for sensitive individuals. While reports of vaccine related injuries are downplayed by the scientific community because they are rare, it is important to recognize the grief a parent feels, knowing they were forced by law to permit injection of a substance that killed their child. When you lose or injur someone you love, it does not matter that the event was rare.
Time honored traditions promoted by many world religions often seek to replace detailed laws with guiding principles and informed judgments. For example, the Inca, as reported by Garcilazo de la Vega, imposed only three laws on their people: Ama Sua. Ama Llulla. Ama Quella. These translate as Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not be lazy. Early Christianity distinguished itself from the legalisms of Jewish culture by commanding people only to love God above all things, and to love thy neighbor and thyself. And even early Hebrew religion only imposed ten commandments, simple enough to carve on stone. By comparison, the food safety laws brought about by the US Food Safety Modernization Act alone are described in an 89 page document! How many of the 326 million affected by this law will ever even have time to read it, much less understand all its health implications?
Simple principles allow greater freedom (while still protecting the rights of others) because they are clear, free of loopholes, and more likely to ensure that both you and those around you are treated fairly then laws imposed by states. These common religious principles endure across centuries for one simple reason. While rigid laws become balls and chains that lead too many to an unjust grave, guiding principles provide the flexibility necessary for adaptation within a dynamically changing world. Living by flexible principles allows individuals who embrace good will to experience freedom, manifest their personal dreams and aspirations, and still remain connected to the communities that provide strength, companionship, and security in good times and bad.
Build an Open Network of Like Minded People
Society at large is filled with people whose beliefs, values, and aspirations contradict your own. When these are the people you surround yourself with, each action you take will be met with an equal and opposite reaction. Everything you build will be torn down. At the same time, when you build walls to exclude these people, you create enemies. Enemies will also tear down everything you try to build.
By learning to surround yourself with people who share your values, while demonstrating tolerance for those who do not, you establish permanent connections to a dynamic support network that preserves and protects your ideals and beliefs, even as the world around you changes. Allowing others the freedom to express their own values, and to enter or exit your network at will, creates a culture of mutual respect that is less likely to erupt into disputes.
This kind of a network is permeable to new ideas, and capable of evolution. This ability to evolve is crucial because the planet we live on is constantly changing. Without the ability to evolve, you cannot adapt to these changes, and you will perish.
Benefits of surrounding yourself with a large network include resilience in changing economic times. Well networked individuals can transition more quickly between jobs, build businesses, or find good deals simply because they know others who want what they want. Perhaps this is why personal finance author, Robert Kiyosaki is quoted as saying, “The richest people in the world look for and build networks; everyone else looks for work.
The free and living world is in a constant state of change. Erosion is a natural process, and few of the resources available at any time point in our life will last forever. To ensure that we have access to resources, we must continuously build. We must create things that are of value to ourselves and to others. Afterall, freedom is no fun when you are poor, hungry, and unable to provide for yourself.
Maybe you create tangible items like new homes, new farms, cures for disease, or new technologies. Maybe you create more abstract products like peaceful communities or educated minds. Regardless of what you do, create in a way that has value for you, and value for others. The value for you keeps your work self-fulfilling. It allows you to enjoy working hard each day. Value for others is your insurance policy and your trade value. Very few of us can make everything we need for a free, secure, and healthy lifestyle. The value you create for others ensures you have something to offer in return for their resources. You can create a fair trade. This fair trade is the key to prosperity.