The master was asked “What’s left if there is no judgment?”
“Freedom”, she replied.
“But, is it not true, that ‘freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose’?
“Yes, that can be said of freedom”.
“So, one can include judgment in life or one can choose freedom in life, but not both, master?”
The master smiled at her recall of the proverb, “Seldom simple, never pure” and resisted saying it out loud. Instead, she asked “What do you include in your life? Be careful in your consideration and come back when you have Truth”.
Truth is a tall order. There are many true statements and he knew that the master had verified two true statements in response to his questions but Truth does not come easily.
He considered his child self and the freedom that he enjoyed. He did not have to earn wages. He did not have to prepare meals. He did not have to make his clothes or his shoes. He was free to play. He felt, again, the joy of imagination and created conquests; the adventure of exploring behind his friend’s barns and singing around a campfire. The thrill of rides at the fair and the anticipation of holding her hand for the first time were freedom bound in his mind. Each a glorious experience to recall.
He considered his undergraduate self and the freedom he enjoyed. He did not have a curfew. He dressed as he liked and made friends with those he liked. Ideas were available anywhere and anytime he wanted a conversation. There were boys to be boisterous with and girls to be wild about. He ate what he wanted, when he wanted it and how he wanted. There were teams to be on and teams to cheer for and all of the abuse he put on his body seemed to have no deleterious effect. He worked but this, too, put him in surroundings from which he chose more friends, more food and more opportunity for adventure. He would come to realize later that he had as much discretionary money during this time of his life as he would ever have. And, when undergraduate years were all over he was filled with the friends, the fun and the feeling that he had the world on a string.
He understood, too, that these growing-up years were not without judgments. He was free to fail but not to be a failure. He grew up in a community and among neighbors that reinforced his parents’ values and limits. He was loved and he was safe. He made mistakes and was allowed to learn and grow into the communities good graces. At the time, he was unable to acknowledge how much he benefited from those who had preceded him but their worth cushioned the judgments about him and he thrived.
The young professional, young husband, and new father prospered in the novelties and the quest for success. He was free to choose the start of his career, free to choose his life partner and free to unconditionally love his babies. His dreams were limitless, multi-dimensional, shared, solo and were matched by his energy. He didn’t know how exactly he would become a success but the opportunities were exhilarating. He made leaps of faith out of confidence and naiveté; he came to know the rush of flow, the gifts of mentors and the blessing of affirmation. Judgment was but a plaything to be formed into the next rung on his achievement ladder. Judgment wasn’t a limit, it was a riser; except when it wasn’t.
The promotion that went to someone else, initially limited him. When she loved most of him but not where he dropped his dirty socks, it limited him. The son who was more interested in books than ball and the daughter, who would rather die than be without a horse, limited him. The maintenance on the house limited him. The obligations to grandparents limited him. The judgment to pursue a graduate degree limited him.
In fact, the closer to the present his reflection on freedom and judgment took him, the more judgment dominated his thinking.
So he began to think of the future. When he no longer had to work he would be free to do as he wished. He would be free to sleep late. He could read every page of the newspaper with unlimited cups of coffee. He could travel. He could be with his friends whenever he wanted to be. He could play with grandchildren and they would go home when they were tired. He could enjoy unlimited TV sports and read what he liked, when he wanted to read it. His garden would be the envy of the neighborhood. He and his wife would have more options to enjoy one another.
Also in the future, he would be judged as poorly matched for the work he now finds meaningful. He would judge his energy level to be no match for his choices in regard to travel, activities with friends, interaction with grandchildren and care of the garden. Limited vision judged an early end to reading time and sports watching. His wife was more interested in activities outside the home than she had ever been and this judgment limited their time to enjoy one another. But these judgments are obscure when one peers into the future. It appeared to him that the future holds more freedom than judgment.
All of his reflection about freedom and judgment had not led to a single Truth. He was more baffled than ever. He walked into the woods to clear his mind – he needed space.
He went to the hiking trail and soon stood under robin’s nest. The mother was protecting her eggs and awaiting her mate’s return from the hunt for food. Down the trail a bridge connected the firm banks on either side of a swiftly moving stream. In the thick of the woods, light barely penetrated the dense overhanging branches and the forest floor carpeted with pine needles and little underbrush was easy to traverse. A clearing revealed the soils great fertility when light could reach it. Wild flowers bloomed amid lush grasses and provided a great feast for the deer. Bees worked the blossoms and raced back to the distant hive to contribute to the Queen’s ongoing coronation. The middle of the clearing enabled a view of the mostly blue sky broken by puff-ball clouds giving hope to much needed rain later in the day. The trail found on the far side of the clearing took him past a small pond. Skilled eyes spotted the Blue Heron motionlessly awaiting its catch of the day. Quiet feet permitted witness to a beaver tail’s silent slip under the surface enroute to the protection of its stick strewn lodge. He became one with nature’s ecosystem. Appreciating the beauty, he found his Truth:
Freedom without judgment’s limits is anarchy. In anarchy, there is only an illusion of being free; genuine freedom requires judgment as a flowing stream requires two banks.