Life in the Afternoon - Part 6 - Cry freedom

Life in the Afternoon - Part 6 - Cry Freedom Revamped.

by P.K.Odendaal. 23 October 2011.

I have inserted some disconcerting paragraphs on freedom in the middle of this article recently.

Part 6 - Cry freedom.

I do not know much about crying and even less about freedom, but I can see that all over the world people who are seeking freedom, people who have freedom, and people who do not know what freedom is, is Crying Freedom. I also Cry Freedom. but why?
I think Freedom is part of an elusive package together with honour, peace, valour and pride. We all aspire to have these, but we never seem to be able to acquire or value them. Somehow, we think it is too expensive or too cheap and too impractical and then we sell it down the river. I also think that, like wisdom and beauty, they all cry out in the streets and nobody heeds them. And why should we heed them - are they not really only empty words or maybe even impostors.

Let me set the stage with honour and valour and hear what Falstaff says about them (King Henry IV Part I by William Shakespeare).
Prince :
Why, thou owest God a death.
Falstaff :
'Tis not due yet, I would be loath to pay him before his day.
What need I be so forward with him that calls not on me.?
Well, 'tis no matter, honour pricks me on.
Yea, but how if honour prick me off when I come on? how then?
Can honour set to a leg? no - or an arm? no - or take away the grief of a wound? no.
Honour hath no skill in surgery then? no. What is honour? a word.
What is in that word honour? what is that honour? air. A trim reckoning!
Who hath it? he that died a-Wednesday. Doth he feel it? no. Doth he hear it? no. 'Tis insensible then? yea. to the dead.
But will it not live with the living? no. Why? Detraction will not suffer it.
Therefore I'll none of it. Honour is a mere scutcheon (shield decorated with a coat of arms) - and so ends my catechism.
... later ... Falstaff falls down in battle, unwounded, and keeps lying down, pretending to be dead, in case someone wants to kill him ...
Falstaff :
'Sblood, it was time to counterfeit, or that hot termagant Scot had paid me, scot and lot too.
Counterfeit? I lie, I am no counterfeit.
To die is but the counterfeit of a man, who hath not the life of a man: but to counterfeit dying, when a man thereby liveth, is to be no counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life indeed.
The better part of valour is discretion, in the which better part I have saved my life ...
I am at 9000 feet in the glider - not on this flight though, and circling in a thermal. I do not often look at my wingtips, but this time I did - and there, on my wingtip, is an eagle formating on me. I know, from the stories of other glider pilots, that this is not unheard of, but still it is rare. I do not know what the eagle thinks, as he looks at me, but I know what I think. I am as free as an eagle. I soar the high winds and I have cut the surly bonds of earth. I am alive. I enjoy the Freedom of powerless flight. I almost cry at the thought of the freedom I enjoy. There can be no freedom as pure as this. I almost cry at freedom.
I can outclimb, outglide and outfly this eagle.
Here are the statistics:
                                                          Eagle                              ASK21 (me)
Gliding angle (degrees)                     6                                    1.2
Gliding speed                                     50 km/hr                        80 km/hr
Climb rate (feet per minute)               400                                over 1000
Maximum speed                                 200 km/hr                      280 km/hr
Wing span - meters                            2.5                                 17
Maximum altitude (feet)                     10 000                           over 30 000 

But, despite that, we all covet the freedom of the eagle. How does my freedom differ from that of the eagle? How can I be so free, when I am bound by so many laws, regulations, restrictions, inhibitions and adverse circumstances?
I am firstly bound by strict Aviation Regulations which regulate air traffic, licensing of aircrew, Rules of the Air - too many to enumerate. I am secondly bound by the Laws of Aerodynamics - complex, pervasive and elaborate. It covers all my glider's flight characteristics - when it will fly and when not, how it will fly, how the air temperature, pressure and density affects my flight, how my handling of the controls and my weight and wing profiles affects it. Then I am a pawn to the forces of nature in terms of what the weather throws at me. It can be anything - loss of visibility, vicious winds and wind shear, rain and hail, disorientation, cold and heat, hypoxia, air sickness, mid-air collisions.
Then I am subject to the laws of the land. There are some things that I am not allowed to do - even up here - not that I have much time to do it up here, but speaking to some ignorant ATC brings me very near to transgression. Freedom of the press does not worry me too much up here and neither the right to vote, an neither does my human rights affect me up here. They could take my voting right away anytime in exchange for this. They can also have my Human Rights, whilst I am up here ... what else ...
So then, what will I be prepared to sacrifice to enjoy this freedom in the air? I think quite a lot, but I will not stretch the issue. So, how can I be so absolutely free when I am bound and inhibited by so many laws? I think it is simply because laws and restrictions have nothing to do with freedom. It is unlawful laws - Ghaddafi style laws - the infringement of our human rights - whatever that may mean - which infringes upon our freedom and which takes our human dignity away.
But, why should they? Why can't I feel free even under oppression? Is freedom not just a word, like the life Falstaff chose instead of honour - a mere word - a shield decorated with a Coat of Arms. No, not arms like in real rifles. I will choose life instead of honour every time and I will choose life instead of freedom every time - even when I am in bondage. I do not say that I will not be an activist when I am oppressed, but the choice is clear.
Or is it not so clear? Why are people in Egypt, Libya and Syria, presently, prepared to die for human dignity and freedom?
In the air I have total freedom, subject to aviation regulations, which the eagle is not subjected to, but does that limit my freedom? Seeing that I can outperform him in the air? I do not think so. Rules and regulations do not inhibit freedom if the country is really democratic. Not that I believe that a democracy can really exist in its pure form for long. It is soon wielded over to one or other form of authoritarian rule - even under cover of the name democracy. In fact, I think democracy will be the downfall of mankind - as dictatorships are - and as socialism is.

So what is this freedom then? It seems to me to be an elusive pipe dream.
I know of people for whom it is not having to work. I know of people for whom freedom is being able to work or having a work. I know of people who are really free due to financial affluence, but who are really in bondage and on a spree of self-destruction, and in many cases are subject to one or other substance abuse. I know of people who are really free, without any financial resources, living happily in poverty in some God forsaken place and really enjoying it . I know of free people who are slaves to economic, financial and political systems and restraints. I know of slaves who are freer than free people.
Many days I think freedom is a scourge and a curse for mankind, and maybe I am not far from right - about as far as three lefts are, because freedom incites people to kill for it, and in the end they are in an even worse bondage than they were before they started. The history of many revolutions over the centuries left the revolutionists in much worse conditions with many of them killed, most of their (human) rights usurped by someone else or by another select group, having had its mother killed.
I know freedom and responsibility goes together, and that many nations accept the freedom without the responsibility and destroy themselves.

To quote Thomas Jefferson: If a nation expects to be both ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.
Charles Kingsley said: There are two freedoms - the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought.
And Kris Kristofferson sings: Freedom is just another word for "nothing more to lose."
Let me look at my basic and even advanced needs, and see whether I really need freedom. Is freedom really part of that? I might just find out that I do not need freedom - and that it is merely a word or a fashion or a coat of arms.
Maslow published a hierarchy of basic needs which sounds very convincing.
He says that mankind has five levels of needs:
1.   Physiological which includes breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, clothing and shelter, homeostasis and excretion. Some of us have not even been satisfying some of these needs!
2.    Safety which includes security of body, employment, resources, morality, the family, health and property. Even more of us have not even satisfied these!
3.    Love/belonging which includes, friendship, family, sexual intimacy. The list of us who have been satisfied in these, has grown even smaller.
4.    Esteem which includes self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect for other and respect by others. Anybody left on this list?
5.    Self-actualization which includes morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice and acceptance of facts. You have lost me now as well.
Yes that is all. So where is freedom on this list?
He also says that one can barely move from one level to the next, unless the previous level has been satisfied. Did I read right? I did not see freedom, peace, honour and valour as part of this hierarchy. Yes, there are many criticisms of this hierarchy, but none of them affects freedom and it remains true for most of the things he mentioned.
I base that view on the following:
I think some people might sell their birth right for a pot of lentil soup. I think some people might sell their human rights for a house or shelter - my human rights have been for sale for some time now, but I have not had any offers. I think some people might sell their voting right for the opportunity of employment. I think some people might sell their soul for money, or a forbidden apple in paradise. I think some people might kill for acceptance like Cain.
And that is exactly what most people do, and that is why we have this appalling record on human rights and humanism and lack of freedom. Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains (Jean Jacques Rousseau - The Social Contract).
Will it ever change? No, freedom as a commodity, it is very cheap and overrated and has a very short shelf life. I might sell mine down the river, like my human rights.
However, freedom, like peace, as a state of mind - is priceless.
Insert added September 2013. Twelve years after September 11.
In the previous edition of this article I did not dwell on the limits of freedom. In fact I did not even consider its implications, apart from talking of the Arab Spring in passing. But it is really now, when I have seen the destruction that freedom causes, that I have added this insert.
I have somehow dwelt on the principle that freedom is quite useless for me as it does not provide in my needs to survive the challenges and needs I have in this world.
Now for the more horrific implications of total freedom.
There are countries and groups of people who think that freedom itself is the ultimate joy and happiness, but they all find out, as time goes by and they remain in bondage, that ultimate freedom is totally destructive. These are the USA, Al Qaeda and others.
In the USA, everyone is permitted to carry weapons of mass destruction (forgive my slight exaggeration) on their bodies without license and inhibitions. They then go out and shoot people left, right and centre - in schools, cinemas, marathons, naval bases and many other places. Now that is real freedom for you! But it is totally destructive.
Al Qaeda goes out and kill three thousand people in a spree of vengeance - the World Trade Centre on September 11. Now that is freedom for you! They even do it with impunity most of the time. In Syria Bashar Al Assad is killing a hundred thousand of his own citizens with weapons his own citizens paid for. Now that is what I call freedom unlimited.
I do not think I need to embroider on this as you get the point, which is that freedom is useless, freedom is destructive, freedom is irresponsible and freedom kills. I rest my case. No freedom for me, thank you! I can hear freedom crying.
During all this, I have not concentrated on the deteriorating weather situation. There is now lightning all around me and the thunderstorm has closed in about me. I find myself all of a sudden fenced into all the smaller cells, which developed into this heavy thunderstorm. There is no way out for me. I might die in this storm, as it will first break up my glider, and then it will shift its attention to me, to destroy what is left. I will, however, not surrender - I will fight until I have extricated myself from it.
The storm cannot help but doing that - even involuntarily. It has no inherent mercy or grace or feeling - for me or mankind in general. Other people farming down below will also feel the venom of the storm and may see their whole year's crop being destroyed by hail and flood, but the storm will not blink an eye or feel any compassion in the process. It has none. It will kill what is in its path, no matter how many incantations we say or how many prayers we say for it. The storm has almost total freedom.
How could I have been so careless? Why did I seek my freedom where destruction and death lies, or lures? Why did I push the limits of this Life in the Afternoon so far, that it may result in Death in the Afternoon? Why was this total freedom in the Air so important to me that I was prepared to risk my life for it. Why can't freedom last forever - and why must I go into this bondage, just because I did not dress it and keep it?
Gen 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
To this storm, I am an object, and nothing more. In fact, it cannot even distinguish between me and other objects, it cannot tend to one object and destroy another one willfully or knowingly and although it does all this - of destroying and tending - it does not do it on purpose. It will not know which one it destroys and which one it tends.
And this is mapping at its most simple and direct form. Knowingly, to me, and maybe unknowingly to you, I, who created this story or who lived it, and of whom I am a part, have mapped it to my life, and especially to a non-physical event in my life which happened thirty five years ago. This is not a novel or fiction. This story, the persons in it and the circumstances they go through are for real - it is an essay on life itself.
Of course, I am here - in this circumstance and in this story - what my soul was then when I needed a saviour. I have tried and pushed the envelopes of sin and moral freedom to extremes unknown to myself previously until I could not extricate myself from it anymore.
The storm is, of course, the devil. He does not care, he has no feelings for me or anyone else. He comes and he destroys, and he does not care whom he destroys. He brings Death in the Afternoon like scripture says :
Psa 91:6  Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
I think that this is the reason why some people start to doubt the existence of the devil. It is unimaginable that a person, a physical being or fallen angel, can be so heartless, vicious, reckless, hateful, revengeful, militant, deceitful, fraudulent, violent, tyrannical and desperate - bent on self-destruction and destruction of the whole of mankind.
I have written a partial blog on this type of behaviour, which necessarily follows moments of glory and invincibility - that of the Devil's previous, and now doomed career. Hitler was of the self-same attitude after his many victories over Western Europe and part of Eastern Europe. Both started with good intentions, then went over to lies and deceit to maintain their power base and ended in mass murder and suicide. No doubt, they will have much to talk about in Hell, should they have a tea break, which I doubt they will have.
Or do you not believe in Hell or the Devil? Then you have fallen for this deceit with which he deceived almost the whole of mankind. There is a fool born every minute - I know - I was one of them and I am still subject to the odd excursion into that realm.
This glider that I am in, the one I glide with so effortlessly through life, this false security I depend on, cannot save my life. It will be destroyed first, even before this storm lashes out at me.
This parachute I have on, will not help me in this storm. If I bale out now, it will not take me down. The updraughts are so severe now, I cannot keep the glider from entering the eye of the storm, and the parachute will take me up, not down, into the centre of the storm. It is useless. I am sorry I brought it along - it is now only a heavy pack of weight on my shoulders, like the pack of sin I used to carry for so long.
It was supposed to be my salvation, to save me from mid-air collisions. It was supposed to be my redemption, to cover up the wrong decisions that I might make, but it turned out to be a sort of self-redemption and own salvation. It will not work - a thing I only discovered in this moment of peril, and I discover that even before I was planning to use it. All the while it gave me this false sense of security.
This thermal which took me up so conveniently, has now landed me in the centre of the storm. It started as a small updraught, but it gathered momentum as I followed it upwards into this, now uncontained, wide road to Hell. It started off as a lie, unfaithfulness, ignorance, disobedience or dishonesty, but now I will have to murder and destroy, to stay out of this storm - and even that will not help me. I will surely go into destruction or everlasting bondage:
Luk 13:28  There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
Fortunately I still have a radio, so I try and call for help, but nobody can help me, they are in distant offices looking at my blip on radar, without being able to give me any. But, in the end, there is only One who can really help and save me in any circumstance, no matter how viscious the storm of life has become.
My self-pride and ego, self-determination and independence, own wisdom, own strength and knowledge pushed me onward into this hopeless maelstrom, where most souls perish. I had to give up all of those and bend my knees, because, ultimately, every knee shall bow to make way for Life in the Afternoon. One can say that I had to die, to become alive again, as has happened so many times with me in the glider - a concept I could well understand.
Yes, there were times when I caught a small updraught in my spiritual life, egged on by some minute splurge of faith and some personal decision to follow it, but soon that thermal died out and I became Luke warm again, preparing for this:
The game was over, I knew it. We were dead. Set up for the parking lot, which was too short to land in, and he'll scatter the sailplane all over the place. (RB) 

I conclude this part with a song of Burl Ives :
I've anchored my soul in the Haven of Rest,
I'll sail the wide seas no more;
The tempest may sweep over wild, stormy, deep,
In Jesus I'm safe evermore.

and 'It is well with my soul' by Horatio Spafford (written when he was in the centre of such a storm) :
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Even better - Listen to it here :

I wish to be free and I wish to have peace - above all else, and that is why I will now shift my attention in the next articles in this series to Him who gives these abundantly and beyond the human understanding and my flight to finding it.

Next time ... Part 7 - My personal testimony - Freedom and Peace for Ever.