Want a lasting sense of freedom?
The crazy irony is, it requires we rein in our freedom.
For a part of us, at least. Lasting freedom requires we to identify and put a harness on “Night Guy.”
Who is Night Guy? It’s the Guy in the mirror. It’s you. It’s me.
Partly, at least. No one better explains it than Jerry Seinfeld:
Night Guy is the part of us that wants to feel free, and then makes choices that screw things up for the other parts of us, meaning, the parts of us that have to suffer the consequences of our choices.
- Today Guy leases a car that Tomorrow Guy has to pay for.
- Fat Guy eats stuff that makes problems for Fit Guy.
- Rash Guy says something in the heat of the moment that gets all his Guys fired.
Sometimes it’s better to see the self as a collection of selves, as a society of selves living in one person. There’s a large population of “Guys” inside us: Night Guy, Morning Guy, Noon Guy, Lazy Guy, Fitness Guy, Spending Guy, Saving Guy, Work Guy, and so on.
In that society of selves, some selves can run free. Other selves are criminal and need to be locked up.
The freedom-killing reality is that consequences are real, and they always follow choices, and they can create more freedom or less freedom. A choice today can lead to more or less freedom tomorrow.
The problem is, life offers a lot of appealing choices that make sense in the moment but don’t make any sense at down the line. They look like a road to freedom. But they’re a freeway exit to a blind alley with a prison door at the end. We think we’re making choices in the name of freedom, but we’re trading a small sense of freedom now for a larger and longer sense of limitation later on.
Today Guy feels free. But he walks Tomorrow Guy into a prison cell.
- Modern culture flaunts “sexual freedom.” But they don’t talk much about the long-term imprisoning consequences of that freedom. Most of what passes for sexual liberty today leads to the breakdown of the self and others over time.
- A teen decides to quit college in the name of “feeling free,” and doesn’t think about the long-term limit it will have on his career choices. He’s just taken an exit ramp off the freeway.
- There’s a strong cultural pressure to “be yourself” that tempts us to validate and elevate all aspects of self. We can’t reign in Bad Guy when culture tells us that every guy in the society is a Good Guy that deserves free expression.
When we think of ourselves as a collection of selves in time, each experiencing the cumulative effect of the choices of the previous self, we’re on track toward understanding the nature of lasting freedom and ultimately living free.
Freedom is a freeway that often looks like it’s trending away from freedom. It often feels so narrow, so constricting. And along that road are many appealing exit ramps that look so liberating. Everything isn’t what it seems, and that’s the mysterious conspiracy of life.
Canadian singer/artist Leonard Cohen’s captured the mystery and tragedy of this deception in his 1992 song, “Closing Time.”
looks like freedom but it feels like death; it’s something in between, I guess.