Freedom ...what is understood by it

Chapter: Project / Garden of Freedom / Freiheit

Freedom als loving service

Freedom is generally understood—when one asks oneself what first comes to mind—as a desirable or worth-retaining state of independence. One feels
free from constraints or from paternalism in the unhindered exercise of one's own will, and unfree, on the other hand, in the kind of restriction that opposes what is desired.

However, one would fall short if one understood freedom only as freedom from someone/something. This is already indicated by the language, which not only knows the phrase '
to free oneself from something,' but also 'to be free for or to something.' The etymology also points to this.

'Free' can be traced back to the Indo-European root prai- or prî- (›to love, to like, to spare‹). The initial p was already changed to f before the turn of the era (as in piscis ›fish‹), the long i only later, in the Middle Ages, to ei (as in mîn ›my‹ and dîn ›your‹). The development from ›dear‹ to ›free, independent‹ is explained by the idea of ›belonging to those who are liked and spared‹: to relatives and tribal comrades (as opposed to the non-tribal unfree and prisoners of war). The same word family includes Freund (originally: ›close person‹, also ›relative‹), freien (›to want to marry, to woo‹), and Friede (originally: ›state of goodwill, sparing‹). Freedom was thus originally what was granted to the friend; he was left in peace, spared, whereas the enemy, the stranger (›distant‹, not close) was seized, made a prisoner and slave.

As it turns out, freedom had, for those whose language ours goes back to, causally to do with love. In this sense, the philosopher Martin Heidegger defined freedom as 'letting be,' by which he did not mean ›to refrain from something, to turn away from it‹, but ›to let something be itself, to allow it its peculiarity‹. So not: to free oneself from something, but to free oneself for something. And perhaps discover a friendship, an unknown kinship of being in the process. Perhaps also the dual character of freedom, which, rightly understood, always includes unfreedom: Because 'in the liberal sense, liberal does not only mean liberal' (Loriot).

This is an old thought, which, however, had more clearly religious-moral features in earlier times. True freedom also means service out of love. In Martin Luther's exemplary formulation: 'A Christian is a free lord over all things and subject to no one. A Christian is a dutiful servant of all things and subject to everyone.'

Jochen A. Bär  (Source)

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