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A ramble about finding freedom/life balance

Or perhaps it would be better to say this is a ramble about finding freedom/reality balance — an ideal personal compromise between how much we struggle for the larger ideals of freedom and how much freedom we create in our personal lives.

We’ve talked before about the difference between fighting for freedom and living free — and the difference between studying freedom in theory and using it in your own life.

Nothing creates more burnout among freedomistas than beating our heads against futile causes. Yet there are always causes. And occasionally, freedom wins. So we fight. Even as we lose on 99 fronts out of 100, we fight.

On the other hand, nothing causes more guilt on the part non-combatants than failing to be in the active resistance. Even when we know that we’ve retreated strategically or made sound tactical choices to stay within the system or go ghost or otherwise keep our heads down, we don’t enjoy our lives as much as we hope to.

And surely those who stay out of the fray but have an expert’s ivory tower view as to how the ideal free world would be conducted (because they have read so many books or listened to so many podcasts) must frequently doubt their wisdom and accuse themselves in their dark, solitary moments of failing either to fight or to live.

The happiest freedomistas, paradoxically, are those who fight themselves into exhaustion, then drop spectacularly out to the point not even knowing who their state state officials arebv, even though earlier they’d have known every office holder and every member of their staffs.

That’s what I believe, anyhow. But I don’t know for sure how content those drop-outs are. I’ve known few who’ve made that giant leap, and part of the leap tends to be losing touch with old comrades in arms.

—–

Still, wherever we are now and wherever we’ve been in the past on the spectrum of pugnacity, living, and philosophizing, finding our own best balance point is a hard, hard, thing.

It may come easy to a few lucky souls, but “cause people” tend not to be restful. Even when we’re sitting and looking to all the world like a person relaxing with a book or a video, our minds tend to be spinning, our peripheral selves observing and calculating what others may not observe.

One thing I’ve noticed about myself and my sharpest friends all my life: Even when were trying not to pay attention to the outside world, we’re absorbing news and politics and situations automatically.

I’ll bet if someone included us in a public poll about government and news (not that most of us would even sit still to be polled), we freedomista types — even if we’ve become hermits in the desert — just know stuff most people don’t. News and politics and facts and odd connections here and there.

How does stuff like that even get in? Because we just pick it up as if through our skins, then our heads carry it around.

Sometimes we’re proud because our heads full of information make us look smart. And no doubt we are bright people. But we’re not necessarily better off for being so aware.

—–

Wednesday was an extraordinary day in the PNW. While you midwesterners waited for the North Pole to swoop down upon you, here that afternoon was sunny, 54 degrees, and without a breath of wind.

Coatless, I walked Ava around a waterfront park. Then when we returned to the car, we discovered two old couples from an out-of-state vehicle having a picnic at one of the outdoor tables.

It was a great moment. They were enjoying themselves, the weather, and each other to the full.

So was I, mostly, but I still looked at those couples and wondered … Who among them thought the income tax was a good thing? Which man fought in a war that killed innocent people and made the world less free? Which of them turned over every excruciating detail the Census Bureau demanded and never asked whether they had the power to say no? Who among them cheered the drug war and the militarization of cops? And above all, whatever you did in your past, happy people, do you know, right now, this moment, what forces imperil your world?

But what does imperil their world? Maybe the fates will bring them nothing but picnics in the sun, good travels, much love and companionship, and as good a death as they can manage.

Maybe that’s what’s ahead of us, too, even as our brains busily spin on topics like 21th century civil war, Fourth Turnings, secession, gun-sanctuary counties, nth-generation warfare, and surviving all of the above.

Who knows? We believe in watchfulness and preparation. But are our lives better for thinking such thoughts instead of enjoying the day that’s in front of us?

How successful are we at balancing our knowledge, understanding, and drive with everyday opportunities for peace and happiness?

—–

Here’s that oft-discussed topic: Why do so many talk of fighting for freedom, then somehow dismiss it as immoral to live free lives? As if actually being free in an imperfect world were an abdication?

The fighters might explain something to the effect of, “All that’s necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” or “Freedom requires vigilance” or “Those who surrender freedom for safety get neither safety nor freedom.”

And the back-to-the-landers or the silent Outlaw Ghosts (do-nothings in the eyes of many fighters) would see their point, but also see the belief in the necessity of eternal battle as a diversion from the real thing.

The mindset of eternal fighting creates catastrophe. A whole history of catastrophe. The tragedy of some revolutions and civil wars is that they’re lost. The tragedy of too many is that they’re won. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, except with a guillotine and socialism this time.

All of which is a rather long-winded way of saying it’s important for fighters to do some hardcore freedom living to give them perspective and real-world experience of the thing they’re nominally fighting for.

But it’s also important for freedom-living people to have either spent some time in the trenches or have an active life mission now that helps freedom survive and thrive beyond their immediate circle.

—–

In the beginning, fighting for freedom is both a natural outgrowth of the things we’ve been taught in school and of our youth and determination. For some, being engaged in battles, political or guerrilla, comes naturally all life long. While others fade out or drop out, such hearty souls battle on — and love it (albeit often in their own misanthropic way).

Others drop out and become as invisible as Rayo of Vonu fame. (That’s a good site, BTW, by a pair of young freedomistas.)

Most of us, though, seek balance between those extremes. But … what’s balance?

Is balance living on the knife’s edge between fight and flight?

Is balance doing one thing with passion for a few years, then turning wholeheartedly in the opposite direction?

Is balance puttering in this direction, then puttering in that direction, never in either a pitched battle or a full retreat?

Is balance knowing your inner self so well that you remain unswayed by the world’s whims and currents?

All of the above? None of the above? What is balance for you? And how have you (or are you) finding it?

14 Comments

  1. Ron Johnson
    Ron Johnson February 1, 2019 3:54 am

    “Is balance knowing your inner self so well that you remain unswayed by the world’s whims and currents?”

    I love that sentence.

    I have concluded, after years of activism (ran for office twice, spent a fair amount of my youth petitioning for the Libertarian Party), then turning my back on direct political activism and trying education, to finally just trying to educate and change myself, that ‘freedom’ is an inner feeling, not an outward political condition. To be ‘free’ is to see things as they really are, to be grounded in reality when the whole world around me is in denial. “They,” the people who use force, whether politicians, bureaucrats, cops, or neighbors who support such people, may be able to achieve my outward conformity, but I will always have the kernel of ‘freedom’ in my mind. Until they find a way to control minds, that freedom will continue. I, and anyone who keeps those thoughts alive, will always be perceived to be enemies of the state because ideas are more dangerous to the rulers than guns.

    (I just read an article that some university found a way to project voices into other people’s heads which, if true, might be the end of any form of ‘freedom”, even internal.)

    Don’t get me wrong, I might still participate in elections if the right candidate were available, argue publicly for fewer taxes and regulations, help pass on the libertarian philosophy to anyone who might want to hear it, but even if I lose every argument and physical freedom continues to diminish, I will still think for myself. If that is the only freedom I will have left, so be it.

  2. Steve Watt
    Steve Watt February 1, 2019 4:08 am

    I am free because I may pick my battles.

  3. Michael Stone
    Michael Stone February 1, 2019 6:16 am

    I’ve been chewing on this very topic for some time now.
    I’ve yet to reach a conclusion but I love the way Ron put it, above…

  4. Pat
    Pat February 1, 2019 6:32 am

    Ron Johnson said –
    “Don’t get me wrong, I might still participate in elections if the right candidate were available, argue publicly for fewer taxes and regulations, help pass on the libertarian philosophy to anyone who might want to hear it, but [B]even if I lose every argument and physical freedom continues to diminish, I will still think for myself. If that is the only freedom I will have left, so be it.”[/B]
    [B] = my emphasis.

    I’ve been thinking about this (related to another issue), and the question occurred to me, “Why must it take a thinking brain to believe in freedom when almost every animal instinctively knows it must be free in order to stay alive? Somehow humans have muddled the concept of what is “humanity” and believe that ‘All For One and One For All’ is the only way to properly live together.”

    (The ‘All For One’ idea related to leftist/progressive attitudes that many people believe in thair hearts are correct, but do not understand in their minds. Why is it that societies cannot perceive the concept of freedom for individuals without corrupting it? I’m not sure it is ONLY the fact that some wish to control others——there may be less ability to think in the presence of others than we imagine.)

    There’s too much here to respond to in one commentary, Claire, but we do have a week to think about it, right? 🙂 An excellent post — Thanks.

  5. kentmcmanigal
    kentmcmanigal February 1, 2019 6:49 am

    For me, freedom and balance come from doing whatever seems to call for my attention right now. But only if it calls for my attention and I want to listen.

    One day I may feel like engaging statists. The next I may prefer ignoring them.
    One day I may say “taxation is theft” if someone mentions being scalped by a “tax” or other government fee. Other days I’ll just sympathize and say “yeah, that sucks”.
    I’m not going to look for reasons to feel guilty over either course.

    Different days, different moods, different priorities.

    Right now I’m having daughter trouble which is a direct result of her mom enrolling her in government schools. Instead of harping on “this is what I was warning you about” I’m busy trying to put out the brush fires and keep new ones from erupting. It may be a losing battle, but it’s more important than any politics.

  6. Comrade X
    Comrade X February 1, 2019 9:06 am

    If you can’t save yourself how can you save others?

    Last night I attended a meeting of a group I help formed (we number about 20) but I told the group prior to the meeting that I would no longer be in leadership (because of changes I am doing in my own life). This meeting was an outreach to those who have a similar interest, around 100 showed up. I went to this meeting and hung out in the back of the room giving support to the efforts of those that were leading. I slipped away with a very good feeling about how this group will grow and succeed without me.

    I do honestly believe if you live the life you deem to be the life that you want and need to live then what is happening around you will benefit from such a life lived.

    IMHO anyone who reads what Claire has written here realizes how important Claire voice is to us all.

  7. david
    david February 1, 2019 11:08 am

    Would this post be an early symptom of wanting to retire and ‘just live’? Finding ‘balance’ would seem to be a logical second step behind ‘dis-engagement’ from the constant internet barrage and on the path to retirement. And then, you’re discussing whether or not to withdraw from the fight.

    If it’s what you want and need Claire, just do it. Explanations aren’t required, and ‘permission’ isn’t either. We all have to do what we need to do, and sometimes a rest or withdrawal from the struggle (freedom, financial, personal, whatever) is just what the doctor orders. You can come back if / when you’re up to it, or just post pics of kittens, puppies and sunsets. The sun sets on all mankind and all the works thereof. Enjoy it.

  8. Pat
    Pat February 2, 2019 4:31 am

    Balance depends on a person’s circumstances and attributes.

    “Is balance living on the knife’s edge between fight and flight?
    Is balance doing one thing with passion for a few years, then turning wholeheartedly in the opposite direction?
    Is balance puttering in this direction, then puttering in that direction, never in either a pitched battle or a full retreat?
    Is balance knowing your inner self so well that you remain unswayed by the world’s whims and currents?”

    I would say, “All of the above.”—depending on where you are on the scale of freedom… Where you need to go to get to your own personal freedom… What hellish choices you have to make to fight tyrants who want to deny your freedom. (How do you respond to the cop who stops you for a broken taillight?)

    Family, age, knowledge (or lack of it), ability (or lack of it), health, even personality—all can help or hinder in the quest for freedom, and in the attempt to fight for freedom.

    Some can live low-key, they don’t need much freedom to feel free. A small house somewhere, with minimal possessions, “under the radar” so others (TPTB or the nosey neighbor) leave them alone, is an adequate freestyle.

    Others consider the larger picture as a part of their life; they need to know that the politics of freedom are in place EVERYWHERE before they can relax or feel free.

    I can only do what I can do – and I alone know what that is. The past is over, the future is unknown; I live in the present now. I may feel regret, but I do not feel guilt. My choices have brought me to where I am (and some of them were stupid), but my education is not finished. As long as I stay alert to what’s happening around me, I can learn, and anticipate, and roll with the punches. If an opportunity arises to make a statement (Molon Labe) or become a Mole, I will do so; otherwise I remain a Ghost.

    Balance is “living within your means”, whether financial or freedom-oriented.

    (And, Claire, I will be changing my current email address for this site. I’ll let you know the new one.)

  9. larryarnold
    larryarnold February 2, 2019 8:36 pm

    I’ll bet if someone included us in a public poll about government and news (not that most of us would even sit still to be polled), we freedomista types — even if we’ve become hermits in the desert — just know stuff most people don’t. News and politics and facts and odd connections here and there.

    That’s me; a mental hoarder. Broccoli is a result of careful breeding in the northern Mediterranean starting in about the sixth century BCE, and was considered a uniquely valuable food during the Roman Empire. It’s a good source of folic acid, which is very important during the first trimester of pregnancy. (It’s been seven years since my daughter was pregnant.)

    Freedom is being a slave only to yourself.

  10. David Gross
    David Gross February 2, 2019 10:35 pm

    Thoreau had some good things to say about finding this balance. Here’s one:

    It is not a man’s duty, as a mat­ter of course, to de­vote him­self to the erad­i­cat­ion of any, even the most enor­mous wrong; he may still prop­erly have other con­cerns to en­gage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it prac­ti­cally his sup­port. If I de­vote my­self to other pur­suits and con­tem­plat­ions, I must first see, at least, that I do not pur­sue them sit­ting upon an­other man’s shoul­ders. I must get off him first, that he may pur­sue his con­tem­plat­ions too. See what gross in­con­sis­tency is tol­er­a­ted. I have heard some of my towns­men say, “I should like to have them or­der me out to help put down an in­sur­rec­tion of the slaves, or to march to Mex­ico, — see if I would go;” and yet these very men have each, di­rectly by their al­le­giance, and so in­di­rectly, at least, by their money, fur­nished a sub­sti­tute.

  11. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 2, 2019 11:46 pm

    Communism is the instinctively natural politics of the great apes, gorillas and common chimpanzees. Humans inherited these instincts and organize into groups like monkeys; not centrally controlled like ants, and not mostly solitary like some cats and birds. In about 1 in 100 humans the instincts are weaker. These humans are freethinkers and reexamine moral rules from first principles. The likelihood of being a freethinker isn’t increased by parents or neighbors who are freethinkers, or by education. Early America concentrated the highest percentage of freethinkers ever by emigration, then they got re-enslaved by their children. Are you willing to point guns in the faces of your spouses and children and threaten them with death when they opine ‘there oughta be a law’?

  12. strycat
    strycat February 8, 2019 7:41 am

    I don’t know the answer. I dropped out of activism more than a decade ago. I’m much happier now. However every time I go out to eat I’m hit with a meals tax that I helped defeat back in the day. Of course the government came back years later after the crew that stopped it had burned out or moved away. I know if just a few of us had taken a couple of weeks to campaign against it, we would have defeated it again. But now we’re stuck with it in perpetuity (in addition to ever growing real estate taxes). I have to drive to the next county if I want to eat out. I have less I can spend on my kid and when he’s an adult there’s no telling how close to Venezuela we’ll be, all because I was busy doing non-activist things.

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