The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday is freedom of self, the freedom to think for ourselves, to reason, and to choose how to live life. Each individual has the right to find the meaning of his own life and to follow his own dreams.
My youngest daughter recently recommended that I read Anthem by Ayn Rand because she found the book to be very interesting. I recently read the book also, and I too found it very worth reading. The author first conceived the idea for this book while she was a teenager in Soviet Russia in the early 1920s, but she didn't think of it as a way to expose her socialist way of life. She thought that she would write it as "a play about a collectivist society of the future in which they lost the word `I.' They were all calling each other `we' …." (p viii).
Ayn Rand came to the United States in 1926 when she was 21 years old, but she didn't write her story about individualism until the summer of 1937. The story was published "at once" in Great Britain, "but in America, where intellectuals, intoxicated by Communism, were at the height (or nadir) of the Red Decade" (pp ix-x). The American audience had to wait for Anthem until it was printed as a pamphlet in 1946. It was printed as a hardcover book in 1953 and as a mass-market paperback in 1961.
The book is about a man known as Equality 7-2521 who grew up in a society with the following motto: "We are one in all and all in one. There are no men but only the great WE, One, indivisible and forever." Everyone must be part of the whole, and no one was permitted to have individual thoughts, friends, or actions. The story is about this man and how his own personal desires and dreams were forced to yield to the good of the group. He struggled against his desire to study, learn, and become better because "all men must be alike."
The book continues with Equality 7-2521 learning about electricity and other ways to improve the community, but the leaders couldn't accept the fact that he had learned something as an individual. He ran away from the society and fled through the Uncharted Forest. A female friend heard that he had fled into the forest and followed him during the night. Together they found a place where they learned the word "I" and the meaning of individualism.
This book is a good reminder of why communism and socialism are not good for mankind. As I read this book, some words of a well-known poem started running through my mind. I learned these truths as a child and grew to adulthood with this understanding.
Know this, that every soul is free
To choose his life and what he'll be;
For this eternal truth is given:
That God will force no man to heaven.
He'll call, persuade, direct aright,
And bless with wisdom, love, and light,
In nameless ways be good and kind,
But never force the human mind.
Freedom and reason make us men;
Take these away, what are we then?
Mere animals, and just as well
The beasts may think of heaven or hell.
May we no more our powers abuse,
But ways of truth and goodness choose;
Our God is pleased when we improve
His grace and seek his perfect love.
My thoughts continued to Man's Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl. This author was born in Vienna and earned his MD and PhD from the University of Vienna. He was a Jewish neurologist and psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust and labored in four different Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz, between 1942 and 1945. His parents, brother, and pregnant wife all perished in the camps, but he survived life there and lived to publish more than 30 books before his death in 1997.
According to statistics, approximately 97% of the prisoners died in Nazi concentration camps. Those that did not die in the gas chambers, either killed themselves or died from starvation, beatings, overwork, exposure to the elements of nature without proper clothing and food, or their living conditions. Any prisoners who did not look capable of doing the work were taken to the gas chambers and killed.
The prisoners who survived the harsh environment were those who had meaning in their lives and reasons to live. Frankl learned that human beings cannot avoid suffering in life, but individuals can choose how to cope with suffering. He explained that people can look for the meaning in the suffering and can choose to move forward in spite of it. This is a freedom that can never truly be taken from mankind.
For each individual to find happiness, we must be free to discover and pursue whatever it is that we personally find meaningful. Without some meaning in life or something to live for, many people fall into apathy, depression or insanity and/or attempt suicide. We are all children of God, and He has made us free to choose for ourselves. No human being or government has the right to take our freedom of self away from us. It is the first and greatest of all our freedoms!
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