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What is your definition of 'freedom'?

Every now and then we all question our own sense of freedom and what it is to be 'free'. How it is to live in the 'land of the free'. As much as it can sometimes be a little deep to talk about with peers, I thought this would be the best place to propose a discussion on your personal opinion of what it is to be 'free'.

See, a lot of people I've asked define 'freedom' as the opportunity to do what ever you want... I then follow this with asking, 'If everyone did as they wished, you'd then be bound by a constant fear of the actions of others, would you not? Then how 'free' would you feel?'

I simply want to start this conversation not because I believe 'freedom' is a definable concept, but because everyones' opinions of the idea is different and it's interesting to hear those opinions.

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    Apr 26 2013: Freedom is the ability to let things go. In other words freedom has something to do with sincerity and unattachment. Excuse my bad English.
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      Apr 26 2013: Farah,
      Your English is good, and you make a good point. We sometimes think of freedom as "having" something, and it is equally important in my perception, to have freedom to let things go:>)

      Welcome to TED:>)
    • Apr 26 2013: I don't think that anybody here can top your 'definition' of freedom :)

      Thank you !
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        Apr 29 2013: Hello Mr. Don
        Firstly, if my idea of what freedom is confuses you, let me explain it. When there's a caged bird, the only way to make it free is to unattach it from the cage. When I have something and I worry about that something being gone (like money, car, power, respect, etc), actually I'm being enslaven by that something. The way to not being enslaven is to not worry about that something and accept the fact that it'll be gone someday (this means sincerity, letting things go, and unattachment). When I wrote that comment above, I didn't think about government, rules, society, etc so it won't be fair if I write what I've thought about it now.

        Secondly, there's no absolute truth so if yours isn't like this, it's okay. We have different ideals as individuals. :)
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        Apr 29 2013: Hi Mr. Don
        Do you mean if it has nothing to do with sincerity and unattachment? Without sincerity there would be barbarism where ego takes place.

        If this doesn't what you mean, sorry cause I actually use that 'has something to do' as 'has some kind of relation with'. I couldn't find good words to describe that. Excuse my not-so-good English. :)
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          Apr 30 2013: Hi Farah,

          The combination of sincerity and unattachment that you mention made be think of 'purity of heart'.

          Thank you, Tarantino and Bjork bless you.
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    Apr 23 2013: There are many things that curtail our freedom. IMO chief among these is fear. We all suffer fear of something; whether work, relationships, disease, or ultimately death. Many people who appear to have great freedom; they may be rich & healthy, but are slaves to fear. Conversely you can find poor people, with serious health problems, who are free from fear & anxiety.
    For me personally, my Christian faith brings a whole new dimension to freedom. I cannot say that fear has no part to play in my life. What I can say is that the real prospect of a better life brings things into sharp perspective. My faith may or may not be accurately targeted, but in a way that is irrelevant; as my present life in the here & now is greatly enhanced by the mere prospect.
    John 8:36 (NIV)
    So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

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      Apr 30 2013: I lked the video, Don, thanks.
      I wouldn't call it a report, more an insight maybe, but that's not so important. He was a smart man, that's what important.
    • W T 100+

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      Apr 30 2013: Don Wesley, thank you!!!

      I wish you could see the smile across my face right now. Richard Feynman, my favorite scientist, had so much wisdom to impart to us. Such a pity he is gone.

      His words in this video resonated so much with me, and perhaps with many who have "common sense".

      His ability to communicate science in layman's terms made listening to him a joy. His love of science and inquiry was and is very contagious........I am alway in awe of his wisdom.

      One of my favorite quotes from him, and which I've shared before on TED:

      "You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird----So.....let's look at the bird and see what it's doing - that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something, and knowing something." R. Feynman

      And here's a quote someone from TED shared with me:

      "There are known knowns.
      These are things we know that we know.
      There are known unknowns.
      That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know.
      But, there are also unknown unknowns.
      These are things we don't know we don't know."

      Have a great day Don Wesley :D
    • Apr 30 2013: Worth a TED Talk on his own!
  • Apr 26 2013: Freedom is doing what you want so long as u respect other peoples freedom and obey the law
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      Apr 27 2013: I am an anarchist. There are two definitions. Neither of which will sway any real contingency. I believe that as long as you harm no others, in any way, relish in freedom as it can neither be given nor granted... only internalized. The word freedom insinuates escape from an external constraint. Our inept, yet highly moral governance, will dictate the meaning of' 'free' in mass. Taxation without representation means so little when engagement is quarter, drawn, and worth two cents.
  • abd maj

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    Apr 25 2013: good question ..
    well, for me, I think freedom is the ability to do whatever you want ,however , without hurting the others by your actions.
    for example,a murder is something unacceptable ,because you're not allowed to do something that hurts the others, however, hurting the others isn't always a matter of material things.I mean a person may hurt the others morally , for instance, when a person makes fun of others beliefs, religions, races, prophets .. that's can't called "freedom" because that behavior hurts the others.
    • Apr 26 2013: what about when the practicing of one religion hurts the people who practice a different religion? should they stop?
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        Apr 26 2013: They should stop hurting, not practicing. Religion does not hurt. It's what people do with it.

        I would compare religion with fire. One can use fire to cook dinner or to burn his neighbor's house. Technically, it's fire that hurts. Shall we deem it harmful?
        • Apr 26 2013: for some it does. invoking the name of one god is blasphemy against another. a person should be as free to practice a religion as another is to mock it.

          i would agree with your fire analogy, however you get a problem when one fire user insists his neighbour not be allowed to use fire because it offends him.
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        Apr 26 2013: You raise an interesting question. Generally, I advocate tolerance, i.e. respecting choices and freedom of other people. But how far should the tolerance go? Shall we tolerate hate speech and slander and protect them as "free speech"? Where is the line where we stop tolerance towards things we consider wrong and immoral?

        Some people don't tolerate teenagers walking with their pants around their knees. Some don't tolerate homosexuality. Some are offended by nudity. Tolerance is one side of the coin. On the other side, how far should our conformity to the rules dominating in a society go? Should people be allowed to walk naked in the streets? If we object to public nudity and want to force everyone to cover their bodies (at least, some parts), why would we object to forcing women wearing hijab?
        • Apr 26 2013: Consider this, then; if one is free to object (violently even) to your paradigm you should be free to defend it equitably. If burning my house meant burning yours we both would have a vested interest in finding an alternative method to express our discontent lest we both become homeless.
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        Apr 26 2013: @ Stacey Harris

        Interesting. So, do you advocate "an eye for an eye" (which leaves everyone blind)? How about forgiveness and turning the other cheek?

        How about cases when one side is overwhelmingly more powerful than the other (by means of physical force, weapons, or influence)? I.e. cases when the weaker side cannot really object without facing dire consequences? Does it mean that the stronger side is free to impose its rules as it pleases?

        If someone mocks other people's religion and the people have violent protests in another part of the world harming the innocent - was the person mocking the religion free to do so given the consequences? Are the people committing violence in response to mocking justified in their actions?

        I don't think, these questions have logical answers. This is a vicious cycle. It's best for everyone if it never starts at all and, if someone starts it, stopped right away. I'd say, both sides are equally wrong in this situation.
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        Apr 26 2013: In case of "offending by nudity", "an eye for an eye" seems to be absurd. If I go naked in the street and someone is "offended" he can go naked too and "offend" me.

        Oh, boy. Discussions of morality are better left alone... There is no logic in why we consider things "moral" or "immoral". It's all seems to be about beliefs and emotional responses.
        • Apr 27 2013: arkady you've made so many brilliant points! i really think you're getting somewhere though so i don't think you need to conclude that it's impossible.

          i wonder if we can find a line between hate speech and slander? i have no problem with hate speech, the same as any debate even if we completely disagree we all learn something from having heard the other side. maybe it only becomes a problem when certain criteria are met, say doing it in a shopping mall rather than a speakers' area, or deliberately spreading falsehoods (by which case then it'd be deception that was the problem, not the speech itself).

          you really got me thinking with the being offended by nudity bit. i would be bothered if a bunch of people were walking about naked in public, but i don't think i'd be offended, it'd be more of a lack of manners thing, like i'd feel they were trying to impose on normal people just trying to go about their business. i'd feel the same way if someone was wearing a "fuck the police" t-shirt or spitting or defecating in public too though. i mean it's not that a person can't say whatever hateful things are on their mind or can't go about naked or wear what they want, because there are places designated for those things.

          similarly for religion, for freedom's sake, people need to practise it in their place of worship and leave others alone, and if any mocking is to be done that too should be in the proper place, eg not right in front of the place of worship.
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        Apr 27 2013: Ben, Re: designated places for hate speech. I like the idea. You said, you live in Japan. I've heard, some companies there have special rooms for employees with a rubber dummy of their boss where they can vent their frustrations. Is that true or is it an urban legend? Might be a useful idea. Some people believe, we need to vent out negative emotions once in a while rather than cook them inside.

        I'm trying to actively oppose negative attitudes and avoid blame games of any kind. "Just say 'no' to negativism" as I read on a bumper sticker the other day. It helps.

        Strange that you think I made brilliant points. I thought, I am confused myself and confusing everybody here :-).
  • Apr 24 2013: Freedom is the ability to make decisions on you own without external influence. Now, there are 4 things you need in order to be free: 1) Food, no one is free with an empty belly. 2) Knowledge, freedom without knowledge is just an illusion. 3) Self-discipline, freedom without self-discipline leads you to self-destruction. 4) Responsibility, freedom without responsibility is debauchery. Freedom is not a fixed concept it varies depending on the situation you are living, you are more free when you are making decisions in a field where you have expertise, and less free when you make decisions about something you don't know well. You are more free alone and less free in a crowd... and so on.
    • Apr 28 2013: George QT
      I read many of the conversations.
      Yours stood out.
      If I were to vote on the best.
      Yours would win.

      Freedom is the ability to make decisions on you own without external influence. Now, there are 4 things you need in order to be free: 1) Food, no one is free with an empty belly. 2) Knowledge, freedom without knowledge is just an illusion. 3) Self-discipline, freedom without self-discipline leads you to self-destruction. 4) Responsibility, freedom without responsibility is debauchery. Freedom is not a fixed concept it varies depending on the situation you are living, you are more free when you are making decisions in a field where you have expertise, and less free when you make decisions about something you don't know well. You are more free alone and less free in a crowd... and so on.

    The Bible puts freedom in full context. Freedom is a product of law and not the absense of it (now how unexpected is that!). Actually, let me start form the top down.

    DOMINION - (top level) The full physical territory and theoretical scope of influence. For God, this includes everything He created except our free will (a similar consequence of God's choice otherwise it wouldn't be free). Man's domain is the earth and his ideas.

    POWER - (lower level) The ability to produce change in something or someone else inside our realm of dominion.

    GOVERNMENT / KINGDOM - The system of power employed or power structure excersised.

    LAW - The proactive communication of that system of power and that which defines (and simultaneously limits) our freedom. JUDGEMENT - (sticking this one in there) The reactive communication and excersize of that power which limits our freedom.

    AUTHORITY - (the middle) The individual (legitimate) power that remains within the confines of the Law (what the Republic of America was built on).

    PURPOSE - (lower, more fundamental level) The internal goal that further limits our freedom, around which we exercise our (legitimate) authority, and the direct product of our identity.

    IDENTITY - (the core) In short, your position towards God, "your Creator".

    So, the more free you realize you are, the more responsibility you equally have - ignorance is (temporary) bliss. This may seem more familiar to some if you read them in reverse order.

    [Anecdote: God was free to ignore/destroy his creation but freely chose self-sacrifice to set the 1st example of the consequence of freedom.]
  • Apr 30 2013: I believe that freedom is the self confidence in yourself.
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    Apr 29 2013: Doing / acting / expressing / believing anything without impacting others negatively .....
  • Apr 28 2013: Freedom = Health
    If you have no health, how can you achieve the freedom.
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      Apr 28 2013: I agree Wong... a healthy mind and body are important in pursuit and recognition of freedom....well said:>)
  • Apr 27 2013: Seeing beauty in nature, sharing laughter with a child, helping a stranger in need. Feeling calm and well within myself. These are freedom.
    • Apr 27 2013: So true. In many senses freedom is being true to who you are ...
    • Apr 28 2013: Happens to make me smile.
  • Apr 27 2013: freedom = self awareness.
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    Apr 27 2013: Freedom is a complex idea which can be broken down into two general camps (sometimes they are called positive and negative freedom, but I dislike those terms because of the connotations they bring).

    For example, in many countries people are forced to pay taxes which funds a public education system. One camp would say that by compelling people to pay taxes for this purpose they are denying citizens the choice of where their money goes which limits their freedom. On the other hand, giving everybody access to education gives them more opportunity in a greater variety of career paths and the knowledge with which to participate in civil society, which therefore increases their freedom.

    I am in the latter camp. I don't believe freedom is about lack of restrictions. I believe freedom is about empowerment. People are free when they have the resources, knowledge and skills to pursue and generate opportunities for themselves and others. An empowered citizen in a lawful society is freer than an uneducated, destitute person who lives in a place free of the restrictions of government.
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    Apr 26 2013: What to do, how to act, what to think are things influenced or even driven by others. Even if I'm just walking down the street alone, there are so many rules governing my actions & behavior. So much media / input influencing my thought. So much invasive technology in our fabricated world. For me to feel free I need to be alone, in nature, meditating to focus on "nothing". I can find a sense of freedom there but only temporarily.

    Thanks for the posts.
    • Apr 26 2013: The less ego the more freedom.
      I guess, it goes like this
      Thanks !
      • Apr 28 2013: I like this condensed version better than mine. Thanks
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      Apr 28 2013: Tyler,
      I also LOVE the freedom I feel when experiencing nature, meditating, playing in the gardens, focusing on "nothing" ...and..... "everything":>)

      I'm wondering....
      Why is this feeling only temporary for you? Do you feel the same freedom when "driven by others", as you say?
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        Apr 28 2013: Hi dear Colleen
        great new picture..
        I think freedom is about being flexible...or lets say our capacity to challange every thing....
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          Apr 28 2013: Hello dear Mohammad....thank you.....nice to see you my friend:>)

          I agree...flexibility is a GREAT quality to have and enjoy. Even better when we can challange with a flexible, mindfully aware heart and mind?
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          Apr 28 2013: Dear Mohammad,
          I notice your new photo. I would send you an e-mial, but you do not have that feature in your profile. Are you aware that pointing a finger at people is sometimes thought of as threatening or aggressive? I thought you would like to know that because I feel certain that is not your intent.
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        Apr 29 2013: Dear Colleen
        really..?..!.....I like that pic....because i look like wolves in that pic....lol....
        of 'course i don't like to be threatening or aggressive...I am not..
        but I think you are right, maybe for this context that is not the best picture...
  • Apr 26 2013: No tension
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    Apr 26 2013: Freedom to me is only found alone.
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    Apr 26 2013: My definition of freedom changes depending on the situation, in tune with the environment or against its tune.

    At this point being free is being able to change not only yourself but also the tune.
    (... and being able to go further than to the closest grocery store without pain in my broken foot, but that's a different story, and it will soon change...)
    The definition changes for many in the course of life, I believe, it shifts from protest against supervisors (parents, teachers etc.) to meditative feeling of peace and openness, then back again. Depends on age, experiences, rules of conduct, physical constraints and many other factors related to other people or just to who you are. Change is constant, as they say.

    But in the end of the day being free is being and having an unrestricted right to be.
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      Apr 26 2013: I agree Anna, that how free we actually feel may change with situations. I also feel that no matter what the situation, I always have the freedom to choose how I think, feel, act and react to the situation, and as you say...change is constant. Maybe there are several levels and different feelings of freedom?

      Sorry about your broken foot.....hope it heals soon. I froze my toes skiing in Feb., and my mobility was somewhat restricted for awhile, so freedom of movement was challenged.....be well:>)
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    Apr 26 2013: I would associate freedom with will power. In many cases, "doing what we 'really' want" means denying ourselves many other things we may also want, but consider less worthy or important. It's a paradox, but freedom means imposing, sometimes, huge restrictions on ourselves. If we don't impose restrictions on ourselves voluntarily, other people will - police, credit card company, etc. or we will become slaves of our own passions - addictions, lust, temper.

    In other words, for me, freedom means self-control
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      Apr 26 2013: Arkady,
      That makes sense to me. If we are imposing restrictions on ourselves for the purpose of self control, we are using our freedom of choice.
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    Apr 25 2013: "you'd be bound by the constant fear of the reactions of others"I agree. this topic was discussed in my class a little. I remember my teacher saying " Your freedom begins when other people's ends" example; You say something that might offend the person next to you. you can either throw caution to the side or not speak so freely around that person whom you've offended.
    • Apr 25 2013: But couldn't it be argued that the choice itself is freedom? you still had the choice to throw caution to the side or limit what you say, and no one else made it for you. I think freedom is always there no matter if you live in a dictatorship or a democracy, because freedom is being able to make choices based on what you want. for example if you live in a dictatorship you can choose to fight or to obey. The choices may not always great but they are still your choices to make. So i guess freedom would be up to each individual to decide on how free they are.
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        Apr 25 2013: I agree John, that having choices is a freedom. If we are aware of limitations or restrictions due to laws, regulations and rules, we make choices within those constructs.

        Like I used to tell the guys in jail who often said it was "unfair" of the cops and courts to send them to jail for an offense. When we live in a society, there are usually certain rules and regulations. We have the choice to break those rules and regulations, or, abide by the rules and regulations. That is a free choice. It's like you say John.....we can choose to fight, or obey.

        Personally, I believe I have a great deal of freedom of choice. Part of that is due to the fact that I live in a free country, in a free state, and I do not intend to commit offenses that may threaten my freedom.

        Another part of the picture for me, is that I was taught from the time I was a child that there are consequences with the choices we make. The more information we have about consequences related to the choices, the more freedom we may feel.
        • Apr 26 2013: very good point colleen. too often the blame is misplaced. people say they "hate cops" when perhaps it's more likely it's the person who gave the police their orders that they're angry at.
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        Apr 26 2013: Well said, John.
        You are free if you decide you are free.

        When it comes to the choice between to fight or to obey - in a free world, whatever the system, its name or definition, you can actually chose both at the same time.
        It's a positive development that we are given the ability to make this choice, but it's only positive if what we're fighting for is something worthwile and that our fight is a good one.
        The internet gives us this ability.
        • Apr 26 2013: i'd disagree, freedom is not subjective. idealised bondage is not freedom.
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          Apr 28 2013: Ben,
          I think our perception of freedom is subjective.....don't you? If we are imprisoned, then it is obvious that we are physically restricted or limited.

          Regarding your other comment....
          "Ben Jarvis
          1 day ago: very good point colleen. too often the blame is misplaced. people say they "hate cops" when perhaps it's more likely it's the person who gave the police their orders that they're angry at."

          I also observed, with the offenders I worked with, that they were often angry at and frustrated with themselves. They did not feel that they were free to make choices for themselves. They often expressed the idea that they were being pushed along, or pulled along in this world and had no control.
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        Apr 26 2013: Hi Ben,

        "i'd disagree, freedom is not subjective. idealised bondage is not freedom."

        I believe it is subjective - think about a person confined to a wheelchair, something that many perceive as a substantial restriction of freedom. This person can still feel free despite this adversity and doesn't need to idealise it.
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        • Apr 26 2013: That's a good question. I believe that freedom is more of a noun because while freedom is an idea its not so much an action. It could fit well as a pronoun because freedom can be used to describe many actions, such as living free. However if I had to choose anything to attribute to freedom I would say that freedom is more of a symbol.
          I say this because freedom is different from person to person just as a symbol means something different for each person. Take the US seal for example. The picture of the bald eagle in the seal could mean honor and strength to one person and truth and majesty to another. Is one persons interpretation more correct than the other? No, its just that each person attributes the symbol to what's most important in their life.
          Freedom is the same way. To me freedom is the ability to make a choice based on what you want, but to someone else freedom could mean not being ruled over and forced to do things. Neither of us is wrong because freedom is relative to each person
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        Apr 29 2013: No John, because the person is still bound by the options presented. in this case none of us are free. Funny how beings who have never had something visualize so much and lst after it so much.
  • Apr 25 2013: Thanks Don

    I make no judgement on how many of us can achieve mastery of certain states of being, just congratulations to any who do.

    Mastery of unconditional love is a big achievement... Social media may hold some good information, personal work such as meditation is a great path to freedom.
    • Apr 25 2013: Personal works such as meditation is one of the way to really understand that you are not fully free. But you will look to all this with another eye. Plus, I do not consider meditation as one of the best personal works.
      • Apr 25 2013: Awareness is a key to change and meditation is certainly a pathway to awareness..

        Thats great you are clear on your beliefs about meditation.

        Meditation has certainly been a great life enhancing process for me and a big help on my path to freedom.
        • Apr 25 2013: Meditation is a powerful tool, but it has temptation as many things have, in this case escape from reality. Therefore we must use it accurately, deliberately. From my experience, meditation is not the single way to awareness. But, there are many kinds of meditations...
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    Apr 24 2013: Freedom means a state of being where you are free to act and think without forsaking the responsibility of your actions and thoughts to yourself and everybody else.
  • Apr 24 2013: Freedom means people who can understand each other,be kind,be generous,respect,justice
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      Apr 25 2013: Hi Edulover:>)
      I agree with you that understanding, kindness and respect are good foundations for freedom. If we cannot connect with our own freedom of choices, we cannot connect with the freedom of choices others have either.

      Pabitra insightfully reinforces this thought with his comment...
      "... free to act and think without forsaking the responsibility of your actions and thoughts to yourself and everybody else."
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    Apr 24 2013: .
    Free to do anything without the violation of symbiosis (morality).
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    • Apr 30 2013: I have found a complete and logical definition of freedom written in the Bible: Everything that can be is a result of what is. Everything that is is a result of God's creation. God did not make sin but chose to give us the responsibility of free choice (the equal potential to love or to hate, for example). Everything that exists has laws. So, there is no "absolute freedom" without natural consequence or moral judgement against a predefined set of laws which existed from creation. Freedom, therefore, is defined by the limit of law (or what is left - love, charity, kindness, patience, humility, peace, joy, etc... against which there is no law to limit). Furthermore, all this is externally imposed (natural law), but there is a deeper freedom which is imposed from within. The more you understand the weight of responsibility that freedom brings within 'natural law', the less free you choose to make yourlself (you quickly learn you can't win a boardgame of life if you don't play by the rules). So, the more externally free you think you are, the more inwardly ignorant you may be. The more internal law you impose upon your own self through self realization, the more internally and externally free you become as you literally then let who you are change your external circumstances instead of letting circumstance change who you are.
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    Apr 30 2013: Freedom is... The necessity to be left to your own devices. To be given the ability to not only succeed but also to fail, not only to help each other but to be abandoned by them. It is a trust of humanity in its resilience and is not given by other humans but by the very fact of existence. It must be protected at all costs.
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    Apr 30 2013: As I thought a bit after my first post here, need to add something more

    Ability / intension / desire of acting /standing against anything unjust /discriminative is also one's FREEDOM
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        Apr 30 2013: Hi Don
        Thanks for your interest , let me combine both of posts here to make one whole definition

        Doing / acting / expressing / believing anything without impacting others negatively and also having the ability /intension / desire of acting/standing against anything unjust / discrminative .
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        Apr 30 2013: Hi Don
        You are welcome.
        Could I communicate , what I wanted to mean ?
        If, yes then it's fine with me. In school I didn't like memorizing "Definition" as written in book , instead interested more in understanding what " Definition" mean....In many instances my teachers were not happy with that so you know what could happen to my score :)

        May be here I again repeated by instinct habit.
        Have a good day
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      Apr 30 2013: I agree with all you say and would like to add - the internet gives you all of that.
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        Apr 30 2013: Thanks Anna.
        Well Internet enabled us to deliver most of the points I mentioned , except one, which is point that need one's physical presence to execute .