Principle 9 Liberty – Week 4 – 2022

Here’s somethings to consider this week. Besides the opportunity to participate in the weekly experiences, our next meeting will be a chance for an interchange about your thoughts, insights, examples and questions. 
 
You’ll receive a reminder the day before the meeting. We hope you can join us. 
 
As always: if you no longer wish to receive these mailings or if you know people who would like to be included in them just let me know.
 
 “When You Harm Others You Remain Enchained, But If You Do Not Harm Anyone You May Freely Do Whatever You Want”.
 
 
Principle of Valid Action 9. The Principle of Liberty. Week 4
Last time:  Free and Fearless Action
This time: The Future and What is it that I Want?
But what does it mean to harm? And what does it mean to be enchained? And where’s the future anyway? And shouldn’t we all just live in the present?
 
  This Week:
In previous weeks we have looked at the structure of the principle, and how it was, or could have been applied in the past, and the present.  This week we’ll focus on how we might apply this principle in the future. 
 
Personal Reflections:
What follows are my reflections. I make no greater claim for them but offer them in the spirit of exchange and dialogue.     
 
I say these are my reflections, and obviously that’s true as far as it goes. But in another sense they are our reflections. That is they are informed by our ongoing conversations and exchange of experiences.  Some weeks (like this one) I notice that the themes, or even specific examples, that I’ve already written in preparation for the next meeting are touched on in the current one. 
It’s as if the logic of the principles themselves take us from one conclusion to another. 
 
One aspect of this principle that has been explored a lot in our weekly meetings is what is meant here by the idea of “harm”.  When am I harming someone, and when am I simply doing something that they don’t like, or of which they don’t approve? I don’t want to harm anyone but I also don’t want to be manipulated by some kind of emotional black mail. 
 
Those discussions bring to mind  that adage of uncertain origin which appears in various versions, but runs more or less:
“Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other’s nose begins.”
 
 In  the chapter on law in The Human Landscape, Silo points out that there is something suspicious in these kinds of formulations. He notes:
 
“Your rights end where the rights of others begin.” Therefore: “The rights of others end where your rights begin.” However, since it is generally the first and not the second phrase that is emphasized, we are led to suspect that those who maintain this position see themselves as “the others”—that is, as the representatives of all other people, as the representatives of an established system that needs no justification. 
 
Be that as it may, to harm someone is to do them violence but what are the limits of violence? We know that violence isn’t simply something physical. We understand that there can be emotional violence, psychological violence, racial, religious and sexual violence, etc. These can be as real, and as harmful as physical violence. It seems to me that all forms of violence (or harm) comes from treating people as things or objects. In that sense could we rejig the principle to read: “…do no  violence and you can freely do whatever you want”?
 
Does that resolve everything? Perhaps not, but such deliberations are, for me more than anything, a way of reflecting on my actions. And as a result raise the opportunity to give my behaviour a clearer more coherent direction. A direction where the (perhaps elusive) marker of how I treat other  is of central importance. That aspect will be our focus next month.
 
On This Principle and the Future
 Thinking about how I might apply this principle to what I imagine the future holds always gets me thinking about the special importance Silo gives to the future in general. That’s quite different than how we usually think about the times of consciousness. 
 
Normally we privilege the past. 
For example to understand our place in the universe we consider how we got here (the Big Bang, special creation, etc). When we try to understand ourselves we almost invariably look to the past and the events that have shaped me. When we look at the ancients we often find a great emphasis on the past and how much better things were back then. We might use as an example, the biblical story of Adam, Eve and the fall from Eden. It’s a story which places paradise in the past and explains all our woes by an action that took place back in that distant time.
 
The ancient Greeks, like the ancient Hindus saw their “history” and future as a series of ages. Way, way back in some long, lost, past there was the Golden Age (or if you prefer the Satya Yuga), a time of peace, and prosperity. But of course, humanity began to lose its way and, according to this scheme inevitably falls into a Silver age, then a Bronze, ending in the present Iron, the most debased, age (Kali Yuga). Or something like that.
 
Similar “nostalgic” structures of time can be found in the contemporary world, both in “high” and “low” culture. But as Silo pointed out, while the past (or our interpretation of the past) certainly shapes us, what is decisive is the image we have of the future.
 
Forgive me if you’ve heard me use this example before, but imagine someone whose life today is not going so well, however our friend overhears a conversation that reveals that they are getting a big promotion and of course a raise to go with it. Though none of that has happened the (imagined) future changes how they feel and act today. But what if the conversation they heard revealed that they were going to be fired? Their experience of the present moment would change at least as drastically, but in a very different direction.
Their image of the future changes everything – despite them being the same person, in the identical present situation.
 
My father was a holocaust survivor who lived through WWII as a slave in various concentration camps, places devised to destroy, not just bodies, but the human spirit. I asked him once if there was something that allowed him to live through that hell and remain a kind and optimistic human being.
He said that one thing shared by those who survived is that they could still imagine a future very different from their present reality.
 
This observation fits with the conclusions of Viktor Frankl a psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor who went on to found Logotherapy. He is perhaps best known for his book Man’s Search for Meaning.
The future is this way!
So here’s the problem: if I don’t harm anyone, and I’m free to do whatever I want the question remains; what is it that I truly want? What will I choose? 
 
In any case these are some of my thoughts on this principle. I look forward to seeing you at our meeting on Wednesday, or just hearing about your own reflections.
 
Worth Repeating:
 The question remains; what is it that I truly want?
 
Remember:
Do not let your life pass by without asking yourself, “Who am I?” 
Do not let your life pass by without asking yourself, “Where am I going?” 
 
Do not let a day pass by without giving an answer to yourself about who you are.
Do not let a day pass by without giving an answer to yourself about where you are going. 
Excerpt fromThe Path _ Silo
 
Coming up:
This principle observes that you remain enchain when you harm others. It also sets a kind of lower limit to our actions — do whatever you want but don’t hurt anyone. But as well as this limit the principle we will focus on next month clearly defines a direction for our behaviour towards others.
 
Next week we’ll turn to principle 10  “The Principle of Solidarity” it says: “When You Treat Others As You Would Have Them Treat You, You Liberate Yourself.”
 
Note:
These notes have been posted on our Facebook page (Community of Silo’s Message Toronto Annex), sent to our email list, and are also on my webpage at  www.dzuckerbrot.com
 
See you next time…