"Is freedom anything else than the right to live as we wish? Nothing else."
Epictetus, a philosopher from the turn of the first century, could just as easily have spoken those words today. In fact, this statement may ring true today more than at any time in history.
We want to be bound by almost no limitation. If I have a dream, a desire, a feeling, then I should be allowed to chase it and be the master of my own destiny.
Yes, we know that it would be wrong to cause harm to others in the pursuit of our freedom. However so long as this criteria is met then we can do whatever we want and no one has no business in telling what I can or cannot do.
The problem is that anything that restricts how I can live or express myself somehow requires my very humanity to be diminished or suppressed. Rules limit my ability to live an authentic life, forcing me instead to pretend that I am something that I am not.
It is only when external rules are removed that I can be who I truly am, limited by nothing other than the limits I place on myself. Only when I am free of limitation am I free to be me.
However while we may think of rules as a problem, the right rules can actually allow us to flourish.
Any parent who has had to stop a child chasing a ball onto a busy road knows this.
Yes you are limiting the child's freedom to do as they like, but you do it because you better understand what is good for them.
They might only see a ball getting away from them which they may soon lose, but you see the car racing up the street and know what it could do to them.
Far from dehumanising or oppressing the child in some way by restricting their freedom, in that moment you actually ensure what is best for them. The child will go on living and prospering because you have ensured that their actions were directed by your rules.
This is something which Christian thinkers have long recognised. For instance, St Augustine once stated that "Man is most free when controlled by God alone."
What Augustine realised was that humanity was created for God. He designed this world and he designed us. Because of this, humanity will only truly flourish when we are living most in accord with way God has designed us to live.
When a train is confined to its tracks it is able to do what trains are made to do and move from where it is to where it needs to go. If that train were to escape the bondage of the tracks it becomes less free. In fact, it becomes unable to be what it was made to be at all.
In some way by restricting their freedom, in that moment you actually ensure what is best for them.
In much the same way it is the rule of God which keep us moving from where we are now to where we need to be. And while it may be possible to 'free' ourselves of God's rule, such freedom only takes us further away from the conditions in which we were created to flourish.
This was the message of Jesus himself, who said in John 8; "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
His is a truth which will confront, anger, unsettle and confuse us at times. But it is the only truth which can free us to be who we were created to be.