Yesterday’s “Wrath of God” post generated an important response from Tress who says,
I am still wrestling with this matter of choice.
She goes on to explain,
My problem is with the millions of our fellow human beings who may have never experienced the joys of unselfishness, beauty and love in its fullest sense.
In what sense is it fair to say that people who have never known beauty and love and have been raised around selfishness, violence, and abuse, still have real choice about the lives they live?
The key for me lies in the awareness that all freedom is lived within certain parameters and the boundaries of these parameters are different for everyone. The lines the circumscribe or available choices even change in the same life over the span of years and in different circumstances.
Seven weeks ago, I was free to choose to follow a regular pattern of running about 30kms. a week. I could choose to bike to work every day and to bounce up the stairs to my office. Today, due to a meniscus tear in my left knee, I am no longer free to choose to run, bike, or bound up the stairs. But, I have discovered that I am free to choose to peddle a stationary bike, kindly loaned to me. My choices for fitness are more limited at the moment than they were in November, but I still have choices.
The same holds true in the more subtle choices we face in life.
I was raised in a strong, stable, loving home. This fact expands the possible options in my life for decision-making. There are a greater range of responses that are more readily available to me than might at first be available to a person who grew up in an abusive, alcoholic environment. But, limited choices, does not mean no choices.
A person who is deeply wounded still has the ability to live in tune with whatever degree of awareness they possess. Their ability to connect with love, purity, truth, and beauty may be profoundly limited, often through no fault of their own. But, I have never met a person in whom the light of their divine origin has been completely eradicated. It may flicker faintly but it has not been extinguished.
With the possible exception of a complete sociopath, every human being has the ability to make a tiny step towards the light. There are not many people who, under relatively normal circumstances, would not do the best they could to protect an infant entrusted to their care. There are few people throughout all of history who have been able to torture and kill innocent victims with an absolutely clear conscience. Some faint shard of light continues to glow in every human heart no matter how deeply buried.
There are two important implications that arise from this conviction that the light is never totally absent from anyone’s life.
First, we all have the capacity to grow in our responsiveness to the deeper reality of our true nature. To the degree that we make the tiniest choice, towards the light, our ability to choose the light will grow. It may be an almost imperceptible increase, but our choices always bear fruit toward the light or toward the dark. The smallest act of love helps equip me to make more life-giving choices in the future.
The second implication that arises from my faith in the presence of light in every human being, is that my choice to live in the light, has the power to draw other people closer to the light. This is why Jesus gave the curious instruction to
let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
The more brightly and freely the light shines in my life, the more I am able to support other people in choosing more deeply to find the light in their own lives. I become part of expanding the parameters of another person’s freedom to choose the light.
Freedom may not always look the way we hope it might. Freedom is not the ability to do anything I choose. Freedom is the ability to live in tune with my deeper nature. It may be that a person who has grown up in the most horrific circumstances, is in fact more deeply free than a person who has grown up in a privileged environment but has chosen to move away from the light.