Thursday, April 29, 2010

Berry on Freedom

"If freedom is understood as merely the privilege of the unconcerned and uncommitted to muddle about in error, then freedom will certainly destroy itself." - W. Berry

I found this quote posted on Facebook this afternoon. As I consider Berry my adopted grandfather and have a thing for succinct & cogent articulations, my immediate thought was to duplicate the quote. Paste it somewhere, on a tweet, in my own status box, on someone's facebook page. Take that! How do you like me now!

And then I began thinking about what he was saying. Not having any idea where the quote came from, I could only rely on what the original quoter quoted from whatever source, whatever bit of Berry text, they took it from. I suppose in the rest of the paragraph or essay, Berry goes on to describe how freedom should be understood.

As it stands now, out of context, I only know what he thinks it isn't: "the privilege of the unconcerned and uncommitted to muddle about in error." This seemed fairly clear and incisive for the few moments that my ego allowed it to be about everyone else-- the stupid, unthinking masses. Then it hit me that because of my inability to find a philosophical orientation, I often "muddle about in error" myself, and I could easily be grouped amongst the "uncommitted" by anyone else reading the quote; "uncommitted" because to commit is to have perspectival faith. That is, you have to believe that the way the conventions you exist in are allowing you to see the situation provides you with adequate reason to take what seems to you to be a definite course of action.

I'm not "unconcerned", and I don't want to be the brunt of Berry's condemnations. I don't want to muddle about in error, and my kind friends don't want me to either. But, admittedly, I am. So we offer each other conventions to commit to, telling each other that this or that way of seeing the world is right, and that by its light, this course of action is the most manly, the most godly, the most good.

Another Berry quote I've posted before: "Knowing how to live in ignorance is paramount." So, maybe it's the unconcerned muddling that Berry doesn't like. His philosophy is one of joyful and careful acceptance of our own ignorance-- perhaps we could say that he would advise, instead of muddling, "joyfully and concernedly living in error."

We do live in ignorance. If you think otherwise, you may be merely asserting the infallibility of a particular rhetorical convention. Which hardly even makes sense.

Ooh, idea-- I'm going to go post that quote, the "paramount" quote, as a reply to the facebook post. Ooh! How do you like me now!


BF said...

so, which is worse? a life riddled with errors or an uncommitted (to unstated object??) life?

Ryan Hofer said...

The only thing way I can figure out "worse" is by reference to my own personal state, which includes my capacity for empathy. This begs the question of how I construct my boundaries, as in this feeling is going to get me where I want to go, and this feeling is not appropriate. But then we're back to the justification for boundaries, which so often comes from convention.

Balance seems to be a nice feeling to go for; active calmness.

Cadence's Mom said...

So...why no postings since 2010? Were all blog sites abandoned for Facebook? I know I'm guilty of that.