Nations grown corrupt
Love bondage more than liberty;
Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty.
~ John Milton
While touring Independence Hall in Philadelphia recently it occurred to me that the greater part of men prefer security to liberty. Most it seems are not even aware that they are making a choice. They go about their lives, entranced by the world around them, trading security for liberty, especially in times of turmoil or unfamiliarity.
We live in such a time. The challenge lies in maintaining sufficient perspective in a climate dominated by fear, doubt and uncommon uncertainty. The changes come slowly, but like the mighty tides they alter the landscape in their passing. James Madison described the pattern well when he stated: “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
While I am inclined to agree with Madison’s assessment, it is clear to me that a loss of freedom is a loss of freedom. We live in dangerous times, but we must be careful not to trade short-term security for a long-term liberty.
Be clear on this point: comfort does not always imply freedom. Neither does freedom always imply comfort. Where true freedom is known, there is a deep sense of peace, no matter how strenuously you may be working to safeguard liberty, but freedom is not always comfortable.
Oddly enough, bondage is more often characterized by ease than liberty. I imagine this is due to the fact that the creative forces are more contained and the experience is more pressurized in one who exercises his capacity of decision in the protection of liberty.
Take care that you do not sell yourself short in this regard. As was depicted so cleverly in the movie The Matrix, foolish and shameful is he who submits to bondage with ease, as long as strenuous liberty remains an option. It is much easier to preserve something already gained than it is to regain something that was lost due to ignorance, neglect or disuse.
9 thoughts on “Strenuous Liberty”
My father always said, “Use it or lose it” – definitely applies to the right use of freedom.
Love the recent posts! It has been many years since I visited Philadelphia but I enjoyed my visit to Independence Hall then. So much history, especially inspiring to a teacher!
Glad you took advantage of your trip to visit these historic places and meditate on their significance to us all still in this day.
It is so important to have long range vision with respect to the decisions we make. Whether we realize it or not, those decisions are creating a future for ourselves and others.
I think you’re right about the idea we are in one of these times. The present fear of terrorism, the recession, natural disasters and environmental ones are creating the perfect storm for loss of liberty. People motivated by fear usually give away their liberty in the gradual process of looking for protection; then the protectors become the dictators. It takes courage,work and thinking to live in a republic.
Excellent post… The title says it all.
Well put that comfort and freedom do not always go hand in hand. There is a deeper value to preserve and protect. I enjoyed the consideration here.