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Love & Freedom

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My church group is studying “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller.  This week’s chapter was on the perception that Christianity is a “straitjacket” that compromises our freedom.  Keller’s conclusion is excellent:

“What then is the moral-spiritual reality we must acknowledge to thrive?  What is the environment that liberates us if we confine ourselves to it, like water liberates the fish?  Love.  Love is the most liberating freedom-loss of all.

“One of the principles of love – either love for a friend or romantic love – is that you have to lose independence to attain greater intimacy.  If you want the “freedoms” of love – the fulfillment, security, sense of worth that it brings – you must limit your freedom in many ways.  You cannot enter a deep relationship and still make unilateral decisions or allow your friend or lover no say in how you live your life.  To experience the joy and freedom of love, you must give up your personal autonomy.  [...]

“A love relationship limits your personal options.  Again we are confronted with the complexity of the concept of “freedom.”  Human beings are most free and alive in relationships of love.  We only become ourselves in love, and yet healthy love relationships involve mutual, unselfish service, a mutual loss of independence.  C.S. Lewis puts it eloquently:

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My father’s father passed away several years ago of leukemia.  He was a teacher and, like me, enjoyed dabbling in a variety of pursuits.  One of these was poetry, and one of my cousins recently composed a song cycle for piano and baritone featuring the words of a poem he wrote (my cousin, Erin, is a gifted pianist and is studying piano performance and composition in West Chester).  My grandfather’s love of nature and bird-watching is evident in it:

Summer’s near, I know,
when fields are drifted white with
dandelion ’snow.’

High on the cedar,
challenging breeze and sunburst,
a mockingbird sings.

Southland breeze!  O whence
your power?  Twigs burst forth in
peach blooms by my fence.

From each cloud, a tear;
humid breath of sun, half hid;
summer’s heat is here.

Morning clear and bright!
Behind the mountain, a storm is
gathering his might!

Sunlit, sparkly dew,
reflects a million skies of
blue freshness, all new.

Sparkling dew is born,
on every blade and flower,
this September morn.

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I recently took a road trip with my family to California and spent the travel time catching up on some reading.  The first book I read was given to me by my grandmother for Christmas, a choice ostensibly inspired by my recent purchase of a motorcycle.  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was written in 1974 by Robert M. Pirsig and received widespread acclaim for the novel way in which it presents fresh philosophical ideas.  Here’s my review.

Zen is a rather remarkable book in that it brings together many genres of literature into one fairly lengthy but enjoyable book.  Depending on what part of the book you’re referring you, it could be categorized as a travelogue, psychological drama, presentation of alternatives to traditional forms of higher education, or innovative philosophical theory.

The whole of Zen appears to be a semi-autobiographical account of a motorcycle trip the author takes with his son, Chris, and two friends.  Where they visit is hinted at, but not ultimately important.  The important details are the thoughts the narrator shares during the long stretches of road that separate the group’s various stops and personal interactions.  The heart of the book is contained in these passages, and it is here that the book is interesting, fresh, and at times strange.

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I’m a fan of the “webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language” known as xkcd, and one of the recurring “hero” characters in it is Cory Doctorow, author and founder of former magazine and current blog Boing Boing.  I was perusing some of the older xkcd comics, most of which I’d already seen, and came across one of the references to Doctorow and decided to wikipedia him.  Turns out he’s a pretty interesting person, and a well-read and respected fiction author.  He’s really into comics and science fiction, as well as personal privacy, intellectual property right laws, and a host of other “nerdy” subjects, many of which interest me as well.  I then read about his latest novel, Little Brother, and some of the critical acclaim it had received.  It piqued my interest, so I looked into it more.  Turns out that Doctorow publishes all his books under the Creative Commons license, which is essentially a more flexible alternative to Copyrighting your work.  Creative Commons has been a great success online, along with GNU free documentation and other “share-friendly” licensing methods, and has many sites dedicated to works published under its “some rights reserved” protections.  The beauty of Creative Commons is that it preserves the content creator’s rights to profit from and retain ownership of their work (be it musical, literary, photographic, etc.) while recognizing that allowing the public to freely keep, share, and (optionally) modify artistic work can be a tremendous boon to their success.  To make a long story short, by being published under CC, Doctorow’s books like Little Brother are freely available, and he has a wide variety of text and ebook formats available for free, anonymous download on the book’s website.  If you’d like to know more about why an artist would choose to freely give away their works, read Doctorow’s explanation at the beginning of the book.

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