The old argument still goes on – are we human beings living lives that are predestined, and thus predetermined, or are we quite free to live out each day as best we can? Let’s look at what actually happens. You get up in the morning, and if you have a job to go to, off you go. But there may be a day when the last thing you feel like doing is going to work. (Let’s hope it’s not every day!) You have the freedom to stay at home, but there is a consequent necessity that says that you won’t get paid – unless you call in sick. But you are not sick, so you don’t call in (or maybe you do?). Here freedom is bumped by necessity. You take the day off and don’t get paid, and you probably feel a bit guilty about taking the day. Were you really exercising your freedom?Most of us suffer at least one serious accident or illness during our life. When I rode my bicycle at 28mph into the back of a stationary car (I did!) did I freely choose to do so? In this case ‘no’! Was it a necessity that such a thing should happen? Well, the interesting thing is that certain things changed as a result of this ‘accident’. I was studying in Germany at the time. Eight days in hospital followed by two weeks convalescence meant that I missed key parts of the course. That was inconvenient. But what was good was that I had to slow down and take stock. I was going too fast on the bicycle and I was going too fast with my life. The accident was a necessity and I came to see that, in a sense, a wiser part of me had actually set it all up. If I hadn’t had that accident then it’s most likely that I would have burnt myself out and failed to complete the course.

Stories abound of people who were prevented by unforeseen circumstances from stepping onto a ship or plane for the voyage or flight of their life. They escaped death because the ship sunk (Titanic), the plane crashed (Erebus). Their initial disappointment would have turned into something quite different very quickly. Maybe lots of people are prevented from travelling and nothing ever happens to the ship, plane, bus or car. But read reports where tragedy strikes many yet spares some and you can get quite a different feeling about how these things work.

If we plan and save over many months in order to have an extended overseas trip, when we come to the point of packing our bags would we, for the sake of demonstrating our freedom, decide to stay at home instead? We could, but after all the planning and booking and anticipation it would be rather perverse to then turn round and not go without a very good reason. Yet we have created a kind of necessity. We do this all the time. In fact our freedom is to do with how we experience our trip overseas. We have a lot of freedom around that. The same thing holds for all kinds of things: Moving into a new home, getting married, going into business … all these things create a field of necessity – a definite structure or form, in our life, and within the necessary forms we exercise our freedom. We are free to be busy or lazy in our new home, for instance.

So the point is: Necessity and freedom need each other. The one provides form and constraint within which the other can be exercised. When we learn to live freely within the necessities of our life we become more attuned and resilient. We are more likely to make positive choices within the constraints.

Posted by Kevin Coffey
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