articlesqa July 13, 2015 freedom from fences
Ifeoluwapo Eleyinafe Article by Ifeoluwapo EleyinafeCreator and author of
In which we learn about free­dom by study­ing bi­ol­o­gy, watch­ing Glad­i­a­tor and lis­ten­ing to God.

There is much talk in the world to­day about free­doms and be­ing able to do what­ev­er you want. Yet these are of­ten the words of those (I in­clud­ed) who grew up in peace. It is not the talk of sol­diers who have suf­fered and died for free­dom. They un­der­stand bet­ter than us the lim­its that make even our free­dom pos­si­ble. For they are liv­ing walls them­selves. It is the talk of par­ents who refuse to vac­ci­nate their chil­dren be­cause they have nev­er wit­nessed and learned to fear the paral­y­sis that comes through po­lio. It is the talk of ado­les­cents who want to do it their way un­aware of the sor­row hid­ing at the end of their way. It is the talk of the rich and the poor who for­get that they are broth­ers and sis­ters and that the death of one in­evitably caus­es the oth­er to suf­fer and die. It is the talk of men and women ever strug­gling to break and cre­ate the rules of their re­la­tion­ship. But we do not have to look at this so ab­stract­ly. As Proverbs says to the lazy man to go to the ant and Je­sus says to the anx­ious woman to look to the lil­lies and the birds, let us have a look the low­ly cell.

The Cell

Few things in your body demon­strate the dis­si­pa­tion of free­dom in the ab­sence of lim­its more fun­da­men­tal­ly than the cell. Cells are found all over your body from the bac­te­ria in your guts to the cells of your skin to the nerves that move your body and con­duct your thoughts. Yet re­mark­ably, these cells all look es­sen­tial­ly sim­i­lar. At a very ba­sic lev­el, a cell is some wa­ter mixed with chem­i­cals sur­round­ed by a wall. A cell then is a set of po­ten­tial chem­i­cal re­ac­tions (free­doms) lim­it­ed by a bound­ary (the cell wall). Not sur­pris­ing­ly, a siz­able amount of what a cell does is aimed sim­ply at main­tain­ing the in­tegri­ty of its wall and its in­ter­nal con­nec­tions with the wall. Why? Well. The chem­i­cal re­ac­tions (free­doms) with­in a cell can­not oc­cur with­out a spe­cial en­vi­ron­ment. The en­vi­ron­ment out­side a cell is too chaot­ic and bland (en­trop­ic). It has to make the en­vi­ron­ment in­side the wall spe­cial so that it can live and move and do stuff.
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If it doesn’t have a wall, the out­side will be­come just like the in­side. With the spe­cial­ness of the in­side gone, the cell can no longer per­form any chem­i­cal re­ac­tions and it dies. In fact, very of­ten, the first sign we have that a cell is dy­ing is that it be­gins to ei­ther shrink or swell be­cause its wall can no longer keep the out­side out or the in­side in. The cell swells up and bursts like a bal­loon filled too full. The out­side di­lutes the in­side, the spe­cial­ness is gone and so it dies. In the ab­sence of the walls, the cell is no longer free be­cause it is dead. Fun­da­men­tal­ly and vis­cer­al­ly, our cells re­flect that free­dom with­out walls leads to death and with death, those free­doms end.

But that was a cell. Maybe too sim­plis­tic. Can the same rules that ap­ply to a chem­i­cal and phys­i­cal ob­ject be ap­plied to com­plex hu­man be­hav­ior on a per­son­al or even na­tion­al scale? We’ll ig­nore that hu­mans are made up of these phys­i­cal and chem­i­cal ob­jects since per­haps com­plex­i­ty may arise from emer­gence. Let us turn to art then to see how this ap­plies. Max­imus Dec­imus Meridus, a char­ac­ter in the movie Glad­i­a­tor, had a few fa­mous quotes.

In speak­ing to the “wicked” em­per­or he pro­claims him­self by say­ing the fol­low­ing, “My name is Max­imus Dec­imus Merid­ius, Com­man­der of the Armies of the North, Gen­er­al of the Fe­lix Le­gions, loy­al ser­vant to the true em­per­or, Mar­cus Au­re­lius. Fa­ther to a mur­dered son, hus­band to a mur­dered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” He gives his name, his roles, his re­la­tion­ships and his goals. In a few words, Max­imus has done some­thing few of us ever even think to do. He has de­fined his walls and bound­aries. These are the bound­aries that con­strain the free­dom of his char­ac­ter. He has shown us the chem­i­cals with­in him dri­ving him to­wards the in­evitable goal of re­venge. Only with­in these walls, with this set of chem­i­cals and mo­ti­va­tions in­tact and undi­lut­ed, can Max­imus be Max­imus. To be­come some­one else, he would have to die Matthew 10:39. It is for this rea­son that he ac­cepts Queen Lu­cil­la’s of­fer (watch the movie). He would kill the em­per­or how­ev­er he could and maybe save Rome along the way.

Had he sud­den­ly de­cid­ed to for­give the em­per­or, we would have been con­fused and booed and said, “he’s go­ing out of char­ac­ter”. He is be­com­ing chaot­ic, en­trop­ic and un­con­strained. His walls are break­ing down. He would for us es­sen­tial­ly die as a char­ac­ter. Per­haps he would still bear the name Max­imus but some­thing out­side of him would have en­tered into him and he would be changed, dead and no longer free in the way he was. In­stead, he would be free to do oth­er things. It is im­por­tant then to note that free­doms can change but only and al­ways through death. But this is an­oth­er mat­ter.

A City With­out Walls

This no­tion of free­dom with­in walls is preva­lent through out the Bible. Eden be­came im­pos­si­ble when Adam and Eve left the con­straints of God’s law Gen 2:16-17, 3:6-7. Since they had left the bound­aries of the law, they had left the bound­aries of Eden and God dis­played this by kick­ing them out and putting an an­gel to guard the way into it Gen 3:23-24. God again lat­er promis­es that Is­rael would re­main in the promised land as long as they kept his law Deut 11:13-17. The walls of Jeri­cho fell down and Jeri­cho was con­quered Joshua 6:20-21. Is­rael af­ter re­turn­ing from ex­ile per­sist­ed in build­ing the walls of Jerusalem so they could keep the en­e­mies out­side and the friends in­side Ne­hemi­ah 2:17. And on and on and even into the new tes­ta­ment but let us be­gin with the proverb, Proverbs 25:28.

Now God gives in­sight and so we un­der­stand that with­out self con­trol, a per­son will die the way a city with­out walls dies. But how does a city with­out walls die? He will be open to the out­side and the el­e­ments. She will not be able to sep­a­rate friend from en­e­my for only the walls and bound­aries can do this. He will have no iden­ti­ty and will change his mind with every pass­ing wind Eph­esians 4:14. She will not be free. In­stead, she will be bland, not real­ly mov­ing, not real­ly go­ing any­where be­cause there is no self to gath­er since her self has been spread out and di­lut­ed like a burst cell in the ab­sence of walls. She will not know where her self be­gins and where her self ends. No self, no friend, no en­e­my, every­thing and noth­ing. A man with­out self con­trol is like a city with­out walls. He is dead. Even worse than dead. For a dead man can make an im­pres­sion even be­yond his death. But a man with­out self con­trol is every­thing and there­fore nev­er ever some­thing dis­tinct. A man with­out self con­trol is spread out. He is not sol­id enough and lacks the den­si­ty to even leave a foot­print in ce­ment. For an im­pres­sion in the ground is an echo de­clar­ing “some­thing dis­tinct from its en­vi­ron­ment has passed through here.”

So far we have dis­cussed the be­hav­ioral dy­nam­ics and spir­i­tu­al propul­sion that char­ac­ter­ize the com­plex­i­ty of sin­ful­ness. sa­tan at the door of Adam tempt­ed him to eat the fruit but the same dev­il at Cain’s door tempt­ed him to kill his broth­er. Lamech, Cain’s great great grand­son, was even worse. Sin­ful­ness, which would grow on its own, bears more and dif­fer­ent evil fruit as wicked spir­i­tu­al pow­ers em­pow­er us to sin. Un­der the in­flu­ence of the dev­il, our wicked hearts be­come di­a­bol­i­cal. False ide­olo­gies and proph­e­sies pro­claimed by our hearts are emer­gent prop­er­ties of com­plex­ly com­plex ...
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“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” - Colossians 2:3