This articles was written by By S.Soloveychik, 1994, as a commentary to his manifesto Free Man. Translated into English by A.Aubanova and V.Dull, 2006
Talent of Freedom
THIS HAPPENS ALWAYS: some well known concept suddenly comes out from the shadow to the light, from the ordinary – to the most important. Together with this word move on the values scale something very important in our understanding of a man, the relation of people, is enlightening. Thus, in our eyes, almost forgotten word mercifulness has changed, raised for the first place. It wasn’t forbidden before, but it was not favorite, because it contradicted some basic concepts of the past time, not compatible with it. The same was with the word cooperation, the ordinary Russian word, which, when time came, became the most important word in pedagogy.
Perhaps, this is happening – or will soon happen – with the concept internal freedom, which were mentioned very seldom or never in pedagogical books.
However, this concept, this notion, this human quality, such invisible but at the same time very definite if we think about it, if we distinguish it from other properties and qualities of character, is almost central. It says very much.
But what is the internal freedom of a man?
For the last time I have constantly been thinking about it; accumulate notes – and I offer them to readers in a row form. If it is interesting or important, please be involved in these thoughts.
I understood long ago, that we can find out about the internal world of a man correctly only from the language, testing it by hearing, how the language reacts on this or that concept, with what it corresponds with, and what is inconvenient to say. Language – is the highest judge, it permits, it forbids. Language has been created by nation for thousands years. Each word is tested there. It is not occasion that in the language there is the truth. All people’s comprehensions are in the language. Nothing is more important if we want to understand anything.
Try to say “external freedom.” It doesn’t sound good. The language doesn’t let it. There are no adjectives to the word freedom, freedom is one. There are levels of freedom, there are endless spheres of freedom (freedom of faith, freedom of movement, freedom of choices, freedom of media, freedom of nation), but there are no types or variants of freedom. Freedom is one. We can say “big freedom”, “full freedom”, but we can’t say “little freedom” and there is no the diminutive derivatives from the word freedom.
It seems that there is one only exclusion from the rule, one only adjective is allowed: internal freedom. It is something that isn’t equal to the complete meaning of the word freedom, it is something else, something special – special occasion.
Each man and all people can have freedom; but the internal freedom can be owned by only this one, only this man. Not nation, not a group of people, not a company can have internal freedom. This is a property of one man, the internal quality of the man.
You might agree that we seldom use in our speech this expression: internal freedom. Somehow there is no word for defining this concept, this quality. Or the word exists but we don’t recognize it?
Maybe this word is- independence? One says: independent character. Is internal freedom – independent character?
Not exactly. Independent man doesn’t depend on external circumstances, he doesn’t obey them, he goes against them – and therefore depends on them. Internal freedom is something more and something more attractive. When we see a free man, the idea whether he dependent or independent doesn’t even come to our minds. Independence, by the meaning of the word, is a quality based on negation: no dependence.
But the internal freedom – is a quality, based on affirmation, on positive. Internal freedom emerges not like independence, not in the fight, not in the struggle for myself and my rights.
Here it is. Perhaps this is important: freedom, including internal freedom, is something positive.
Liberation – is negative.
Freedom is positive.
Perhaps, there is still no feeling of freedom in our country because we didn’t get free from many things yet. It is still going on (or must go), the process of liberation. But liberation and freedom – are not corresponding, not compatible.
Also incomplete freedom, some of freedom -means that all the rest is non-freedom. Some freedom is – lots of non-freedom.
Yes, of course. People fight for freedom, but freedom itself, even it must defend itself, in principle is not warlike. Those who have to fight, even for freedom, they are not free.
The internally free man is free from the necessity to fight for him or her self in principle.
Perhaps, the root of upbringing of internally free man is here? For him freedom is invisible as an air that he breathes.
Yes, it’s right. A man feels non-freedom, but he doesn’t feel freedom. Non-freedom – is suffocating, freedom – is normal breathing.
The internal freedom is natural. Can it be acquired by a man during his or her life?
We need to think.
Yes, perhaps, it can. We can reach the internal freedom by ourselves, independently, as a result of hard soul’s work. It was said: “he squeezed drops of a slave out of himself” – himself. Please be attentive, how strong the verb is – squeezed. It is as non-freedom fills in the whole internal world, we can’t release ourselves immediately. We can get the external freedom overnight (for example, finishing the school – we are released from the necessity to do lessons), the internal freedom is achieved by the enormous efforts, for which not everyone is able.
Perhaps, upbringing gives only the drive for internal freedom, drive, with which our own movement for it begins?
Perhaps, upbringing of internally free man means that such freedom becomes ideal for the child, for which he or she will strive during whole life?
Perhaps internal freedom is ideal?
Many people reach independence (not all). But internal freedom is higher ideal. Independence is materialistic, the internal freedom – is idealistic, spiritual thing.
Isn’t it right?
Let’s test another variant: doesn’t it seem that the closest word to the concept of internal freedom is – the word personality.
Everyone is personality; every adult has the personality identification. But in Russian language several words means both ordinary concept and superlative level. In the speech it defined by the voice, in writing it is recognized by the capital letter: man, master, actor, artist, woman, – and Man, Master, Actor, Artist, Woman (“Your majesty Woman”).
The same is with the word personality. We say “personality” with the intonation of a special respect; the intonation becomes a meaningful element.
When do we say “personality”? What do we want to say by it?
What does distinguish a man from others?
It is possible, for example, this phrase: “Each pupil in this class – is personality”.
Personality – is not a man standing out, but a significant man: remarkable personality, enlightened personality, strong personality. But there is a mocking definition: petty personality. But we never say: medium personality – this is impossible.
But what is strange: we can imagine a remarkable personality without internal freedom. In a recent past we saw many of such people: academicians, writers, actors…
The respectful word “personality” doesn’t necessarily assume the internal freedom. In addition, the internal freedom is possible to raise up, but how to raise up personality? I can’t imagine this.
…It seems we can’t find the needed word. Perhaps, no other word can replace the concept of internal freedom.
FROM THE FACT, that a man doesn’t feel freedom both outside, nor inside, it follows that literally freedom is – the natural state of a man. The freer a man is, the more he looks like he is in reality. Here, perhaps, the explanation of the mysterious concept of internal freedom is hidden: free man behaves naturally, not constrained – yet, not impudently.
Internally free man everywhere feels himself as a fish in the water; he lives comfortably in the world. This fact differentiates him from independent man, who constantly enters conflicts or launches them. Listen to our speech: “He behaves with underlined independence”. “He behaves freely”- people say with approval. “He behaves independently” – people say with piece of estrangement if not blame.
People love free people; and people don’t always love and don’t love very much – independent ones.
Yes, such an oddness: Not conformist, but lives comfortably. He lives easy.
No, not easy; this is not exact word.
Here is what matters: it is practically impossible to humiliate the internally free man. It is not like he is unbreakable, senseless, thick skin. No, he is not secured. But he is also not armed – he is not aggressive. He is free – fear to say -from himself, from the burden of his own “I”, from pondering and judgment about himself.
The question “Which am I” – good or bad, -this typically teenagers’ question doesn’t torment him, or doesn’t torment too much. Internally free man doesn’t concentrate on himself too much, he addresses people, life, actions. He thinks, suffers, seeks, have difficulties, hesitates, feels doubts – he can have any character; but least of all he is bothered by his self-estimation. “I want to live for thinking and suffering”, said one of the freest men in history – Pushkin.
Somehow this comfort, easiness of life, joins -can join- with the deepest emotions, without which a man doesn’t exist. There are passionate feelings, genuine suffers, deepest emotions – and at the same time, freedom, absence of internal oppression.
Perhaps, this is possible.
What if the internal freedom is- exactly freedom from the burden of our own “I”?
If so, then it is clear, what necessarily we must do for upbringing of such freedom: do not give a child a reason to doubt whether or not he is a decent man. To persuade him, as psychologists write, that he is ok. “You are OK and I am OK” -this is considered the best form of self-feeling. A man feels himself decent and other men are decent too.
Perhaps this is the formula of internal freedom: “You are OK and I am OK”. I am not worse and I am not better than others; and nobody is worse than me.
The problem “better-worse”, which sometimes torments children so much, just doesn’t exist.
Perhaps, for upbringing of internal freedom we need as less as possible to evaluate children. We can praise – but in condition if we praise all children.