Chapter to Chapter - Topic: Freedom and Safety
Almost every day now, I find myself thinking about a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” In times like these, we are forced to deal with such opposing ideas, but it can be a taxing task to “function” while balancing them. Some people refuse to attempt to see any view that could in any way challenge their own. Some of use try to do so and find it frustrating that many others do not or, sadly, won’t.
Some ideas and principles in life are cut and dry. You know what they are. There are moral absolutes that are, well, absolute. Most of us instinctively know there are certain things we should do and certain things that we should not do—at all. While many of those absolutes are deep-rooted in our religion, our ethics, and our social mores, many people try to spread the covering of absolutes on everything in life, including politics, art, science, and relationships. When we fall into the rut of thinking that just because some parts of life have solid absolutes therefore all parts of life must, we can dig ourselves in a hole that it’s not only hard to get out of, but also hard to live in.
Much of it has to do with the fact that we are not merely logical creatures. We should live by reason as much as possible, true, but we also are emotional beings. We feel things. We sense things. We sometimes just “know” things. Sometimes, however, emotions, because they fluctuate, can lead us down an undesirable path. Ultimately, though, we have to walk a tight wire, a path that leads us straight to the other side yet makes us rely on the “feel” of the balance as we move forward. In this time, we are in a plague. There is no other way to define it; it is a plague sweeping across the entire planet. I never thought I’d live in a time in which the planet is “shut down.” Shut down. Closed for business. In the days after 9/11, I felt the panic and fear in the air, yet people could join together, drive around, find comfort in meals at restaurants, engage in “escapes” like sports and concerts. We could meet at church, join hands, and pray. In 2020, it’s like a blanket of stoppage has been dropped on the entire Earth.
Restrictions are difficult. Self-discipline is difficult. We have to be wise, conserve supplies, shelter in place, and protect those most vulnerable. As much of an inconvenience as Spring 2020 is, we have to put others first by making sacrificial choices. However, putting others first is also, really, putting ourselves first, too. Doing the right thing, opting not to hang out with friends, choosing to stay home protects us, too—from the disease, yes, but also from a potential reality in which many of our loved ones are dead, businesses closed, and the world much different than its pre-2020 version.
Yet, there’s that little issue of holding an opposing view in one’s mind. As much as we need to be safe and to isolate, doing so is causing terrible damage both financially and emotionally. People are losing their businesses, their jobs, their retirements, their bank accounts. Some people are committing suicide. Isolation is taking its toll on people who need interaction. Many of us live lives full of activities that require human interaction. As horrible as this plague is, we cannot stay home forever. The damage would be devastating. To avoid every contagious disease would require every human staying home forever. We can’t do that. The world as we know it would end, and that’s not hyperbole. Just like in every part of life, we have to take risks to live. And living is not living without freedom of movement. For now, we have to do what’s right and tough. Soon, however, we’ll have to open the cage doors, no matter the consequences. Freedom demands it. It’s actually more precious than safety.