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Freedom & Security

I have a million and one things going through my head right now.

I read an article in yesterdays Guardian paper, “To Have and To Hold” by Stuart Jeffries. It’s about our modern phobia of commitment, and it raises some interesting points for me.

He quotes,

“But promises of committment are meaningless in the long term, too – committment isn’t an act of free will.”

Huh? Surely committment is a free-will choice by design – is that not what makes it different from obligation? We make the decision that we will commit to something, and we follow through on that (or not, as the case may be). If we renege on a commitment, that too has been our choice. To me that quote just doesn’t make sense.

Later he quotes Melanie Phillips, who defends the institution of marriage, as saying,

“The law is based on justice; justice requires that you don’t get something for nothing. You don’t claim rights if you don’t enter obligations.”

Jeffries tries to claim that this point is invalid, as cohabiting partners are just as committed to each other as married couples. So why not just get married? If they are that committed to each other what stops them getting married? The fear that it may fall through…? I feel I should reiterate that point: You don’t claim rights if you don’t enter obligations.

I heard a sermon recently on how we are “options” people, but God is an “obligation” person… need to look out my notes from it for further observations.

Loved this quote from it,

“Love has always been difficult, but now more than ever when we seek both freedom from love’s bonds and at the same time yearn for the security it seems to offer.”

6 thoughts on “Freedom & Security

  1. What is perhaps also worth noting is something that I’ve always said, and found repeated in the article:
    “This difficulty in making decisions is a feature of late capitalism, in which we are confronted by endless choice”.
    Our lives are rendered stressful merely by the fact that we have so many choices we can make, and being greedy by nature as humans, we can’t wait to give everything a try, making us feel like we never will have enough time to do so. The saying “so many men/shoes/”insert other collectible object or being here”, so little time” comes to mind. That said however, who do we blame? We all, as consumers, are those who feed the capitalist trend of “one-use” objects, loves and lifestyles.

    However, I have to disagree with the idea that cohabiting couples = non-commitment. After all, in my mind that is perhaps a completely different topic of discussion. I think the main issue surrounding the decrease in new marriages also has something to do with a decreased need to “prove” someone is committing themselves to a relationship. After all, marriages, in a large number of cases, end up in divorce nowadays (a trend which is increasing), which makes the whole idea of “marriage=commitment” a little hypocritical. After all, if commitment is something that is chosen (I don’t agree with the idea that it isn’t free will, that I will give to you) then no matter which name it is given, marriage, civil partnership or cohabitation, it remains commitment. Why get married, in that case?

    The idea that commitment is decreasing though is, I think, a true issue however.

  2. I agree with your point on too much choice… I think it’s a huge part (fault perhaps?) of our Western culture that we think we must try/do everything in order to be satisfied. There is great freedom and satisfaction in decided to do/be a specific, limited number of things, and to excel at those. I believe that in large part was the point of the obligation/options sermon… we like to have lots of options, but our lives are much better when we submit to the “obligation”… an obligation that actually brings us great joy and freedom.

    And yes, we are all to blame for this capitalist trend… this is something I personally am wrestling with deeply at the minute. I discovered over my summer that I slip very easily into whatever my surroundings are. So while in Latvia living a very simple lifestyle, I loved it… yet less than a week later I stood in the Apple Store in NYC thinking “oh wow the ipod is £100 cheaper, I should just buy one”… when I don’t need one! I long to live a simpler lifestyle… I have a feeling that is something I will be exploring a lot more this year in Glasgow.

    I also see your point on marriage… it often doesnt equal committment today. I’m not sure how to respond to that… because for me, it equals committment. I guess I spoke from that perspective… marriage for me is (should) always be lifelong. But that doesnt happen much today. So… yea, I dunno on that point!

  3. I agree on the whole “torn between consumerism and simplicity”, having spent the last month in Pemba, where electricity is a luxury, as is water, and so on, and having loved being in that complete closeness with the bareness and contrasting richness of nature… but having returned to Switzerland and spent a week running through the shops in a frenzy of “I gotta have this, gotta have that”.

    All the same, the word “obligation” sounds a little scary, does it not? Perhaps its more something like “duty” rather than actual obligation? And I’m not so sure “options” go against those duties, or obligations, perhaps they’re not really complete opposites? Or at least, they shouldnt be? Because those options become duties, eventually. I’m not sure I know what I’m saying, actually. Phew.

    About the marriage thing, although I’m not religious, and am beginning to turn towards the idea of cohabitation, civil partnership rather than union before God, I find it just as heartbreaking to see that those who make the decision to sanctify their union in church etc. are finding it more and more the right solution to divorce rather than work through marital problems. That said, he same can be said for cohabiting couples. I guess it’s true people are less and less devoted to long term, and tend to see no farther than the end of their nose in matters as trivial as clothing up to the more important issues such as marriage.

    Gawsh, talk about serious stuff. Hope you’re doing well.

  4. Checked out the mac dictionary definitions for duty and obligaiton just to see what they say…

    duty (noun): a moral or legal obligation, a responsibility

    obligation (noun): an act or course of action to which a person is moraly or legally bound; a duty or committment

    Those are the root definitions. I personally like obligation… the mac dict later describes it as “a debt of gratitude…” I guess to me that why I like the word obligation, the way I live is out of gratitude… at least thats the way I long to live my life, with an overflow of gratitude. But then, its only terminology… call it what you will, I think we are both getting at the same point.

    I reckon you’re right in that obligation/duty and options arent always opposed… I’m not 100% sure the point I’m making here… Maybe it is that we need to open our minds more to tension. To the posibility that two seemingly opposing things can be true and worthwhile at the same time.

    And I find it just as heartbreaking to watch marriages fall apart too. Ditto.

    I am doing well… I’m enjoying this conversation! I dunno, this article just really sparked some thoughts in my head, really struck me. Hope you’re doing good too? Still wanna go on a random photography roadtrip if you’re up for it….

  5. Yes, yes yes! Definetly want to go on a photography roadtrip some time! Especially if it means leaving the city to go outside of Glasgow! I’m really enjoying the conversation as well, it’s been a while since I conversed with ANYONE about anything serious, nevermind someone of my own age (talking to adults is great, but you have to pick around a conversation because they have different sensitivities to those of children/teenagers/adolescents/young adults).

    Looking forward to seeing you again in Glasgow, I’ll be back on the 20-21st ish of sept so I’ll hopefully be seeing you a little after that!

  6. Wonderful! A roadtrip outta the city it is. I’ll be back… oh I dunno when I’ll be back… 24th-ish maybe? I shall keep you up to speed! Enjoy the last few weeks of holidays!

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