Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Oedipus' Answer

"I must obey, though it gives me no pleasure."

Sophocles, the author of the classic tragic play, Oedipus Rex, appears to be a strong believer in fate. Though destiny is not as widely popular in our “make your own way in the world with hard work” society, lessons can still be learned today from Oedipus of more than 2,000 years ago.

As the play opens, Oedipus appears to have freedom as the king, a figure who hypothetically should have the ability to do as he so wish. Many people today believe that those in power and great authority have a greater freedom. Yes, a millionaire can afford to live a lavish lifestyle as he pleases, but great authority such as the president actually carries more responsibilities Othan most daunting professions. Oedipus is alike the president, but rather, in this day and age he is king. Instead of using his power for freedom he chooses to be responsible to his people by serving as a good and just king, and judging by quick glances he does a pretty good job balancing responsibility with freedom. The people look up to Oedipus as he appears to be happy and great with personal freedom by running from the prophecy and balancing the responsibility of his nobility. At this point, Oedipus is at peace because he believes that he has ignored his responsibility to his fate, choosing personal responsibility.

Though he appears free in his ignorance, Oedipus is slave to the fate he cannot see.

Once Oedipus is blind and with new knowledge, he gains a different kind of personal freedom by fleeing his responsibility as a king, and relying solely on himself, untethered and free. Well, free except from fate apparently; Oedipus is responsible to destiny still. This time Oedipus accepts his responsibility to fate by saying “Well, let my destiny go where it will” before he plans to go back into the woods in exile. The personal freedom of knowledge and self-reliance is not pleasurable for Oedipus. In his case, ignorance really is bliss, but that distinguishes Oedipus as noble when he seeks truth that hurts him.

Oedipus poses a third variable to join the freedom/responsibility relationship, that being peace. Most would assume that freedom brings about a solitude and peace with oneself that we should strive for. Oedipus however, shows that freedom brings anguish. Responsibility is comfortable and freedom requires vulnerable effort.  Is truth and freedom worth the pain? According to Oedipus yes, for it is a noble thing to do and living without freedom in knowledge distinguishes one as ignorant and despicable.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Question

Sometimes home shrinks. The walls rise so high, like a pit of fluorescent lighting you cannot climb out. I cannot breathe and I feel every atom in my body panic as it collides against my skin- trying to get out. Every breath is hot on my neck as  it climbs the basement stairs to my private bedroom. Outside, I run, so their breath is lost to the wind that clears my mind. Only now can my heart beat to its own rhythm and I feel alive. Until I look down and the walls creep back up.               

On my cell phone there are seven missed calls and four frantic text messages. I know that I am in trouble. Tonight I am late for curfew again and I fear that my iPhone has betrayed my location, for I am not where I said I would be. The agreement was that I go to Boulder and return home by nine, but I made the decision to hike 4 hours north, past sunset. My first instinct is to be annoyed at my parents for discouraging an uphill summer stroll, but the second wave of realization makes me shameful. 
I hurriedly hustle home, as I mentally prepare myself for the battle awaiting. My tactic is to appear the opposite of how I feel. Therefore, I act nonchalantly and unphased as I join them in criticizing my irresponsibility. To them I may seem supercilious and disrespectful, but they don't know that it hurts me to make them worry. They are good parents and they deserve better.

I used to try to achieve freedom from authority through irresponsibility and it often does not work. With parents, the more irresponsible their child is, the more rules they seem to need in order to keep them in line. Supposedly, if you act responsibly, freedoms will be rewarded unto you. This has happened to me before; for example, when I more regularly update my mother with my whereabouts, I will be allowed to stay out with friends longer. Rarely do I consider this a freedom, however, when I feel that my gallivanting is being scrutinized. I don't truly feel free when my freedom is being watched. That is what drove me to not telling the whole truth, and furthermore, why I disposed of my nifty iPhone and downgraded to a retro flip-phone- no more online location tracking. This behavior is clearly irresponsible, so,
what is the relationship between freedom and responsibility?

In dystopian fiction such as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Helmholtz is not responsible to the laws of his environment in order to achieve freedom. He allows himself to think and write in outlawed ways, which allows himself to remain responsible to his moral beliefs. His freedom is emotional freedom. In the end, he is outcasted from the society he is irresponsible to, and finds his own freedom in individual thought through writing.

Like in revolutions, must we be irresponsible in order to oppose freedom restrictions? When does responsibility jeopardize our freedom? Is freedom worth risking responsibility if it hurts one’s environment? Or is it possible to have freedom while being responsible? How does technology impact our personal freedom? And most importantly, how do we truly define freedom and to whom/what should we be responsible?