Friday, May 27, 2011

The Cost of Freedom (Part 1)

  "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. It would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated." -Thomas Paine
I find this to be a rather cryptic phenomenon in the human experience.

In simpler terms, Thomas Paine seems to propose that if we have freedom without cost, we won't value the freedoms in our life. Even further, I propose that to not value ones freedom is to never have tasted freedom in the first place.

Certainly, whether we value it or not, we all live in the reality of some level of freedom:
  • Visible first amendment rights of all U.S. citizens
  • Privileges given to a teenager by their parents
  • Tangible ability to cast a vote for a citizen of a democracy
  • Invisible inner freedom that even a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz has access to.
But what cost must we pay to truly value, to actualize, freedom in our lives?

Another Thomas (Jefferson), and contemporary freedom-fighter of Paine, seems to give an answer to this question when he said:
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
I understand this sacrifical blood of a patriot to be a manifested cost of freedom; a specific cost paid for a specific type of freedom. It is a sign post pointing to a more universal and foundational truth about the cost of freedom, which undergirds the entire human experience.

I will attempt to continue exploring this foundational truth in future posts.


Until then, I encourage you to read a previous post exploring how the human experience defines cost and value of things in life - The Best Things in Life Are Free. Also, the first article in "The Crisis" series by Thomas Paine (the source of the opening quote) is an elegant piece of writing and equally fascinating glimpse into history.

It has some good laughs too. Totally off topic, I got a kick out of this line in particular:
"'Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country. All nations and ages have been subject to them. Britain has trembled like an ague at the report of a French fleet of flat-bottomed boats; and in the fourteenth [fifteenth] century the whole English army, after ravaging the kingdom of France, was driven back like men petrified with fear; and this brave exploit was performed by a few broken forces collected and headed by a woman, Joan of Arc. Would that heaven might inspire some Jersey maid to spirit up her countrymen, and save her fair fellow sufferers from ravage and ravishment!"

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