Every man is faced with a choice of pursuing happiness or freedom. This choice will govern his life for as long as he chooses to walk his chosen path, and if he made significant commitments along the way it may affect him after he decides to change paths. To avoid the consequences of ignorance, it is best for each man to set aside some time and to seriously ponder where he wants to go and how he wants to get there.
On Natural Slavery
Aristotle believed that some people were born to be slaves. His theory is reinforced by Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Ultimately, freedom does not equate to happiness. Most people cannot handle freedom, and having too much freedom can make people unhappy and yearn for more structure in their lives. This is because the burden of choice weighs too heavily on them and the accountability of making the wrong choice is a terrifying prospect. If freedom is what you desire, you must acknowledge that potential future unhappiness is entirely due to the freedoms of your own choices.
You cannot give others freedom, they must desire it and seek it for themselves. If they have expressed the desire to you, you can help them towards liberation, but it cannot be given freely. The truths you see are not evident to others who had not even contemplated the possibility of their existence before. The tragedy of the man who unknowingly becomes a natural slave is not yours to amend, he must first see his chains before you teach him how to break it. If you choose the path of freedom, you must understand that you will be entirely alone on this path for as long as you walk it. Freedom is not a natural thing to humans. We have evolved to be dependent on the tribe for survival, and to go astray from the prescribed path is to invite suspicion, jealously, and eventually being cast out from the tribe.
On False Happiness
If you can find what you truly want, you can find happiness, or at least contentment. Since happiness is such a fleeting emotion, you must be vigilant at all times of your own mind, as well as the influence of those around you. Be wary of trying to fool yourself into being happy, or trying to rationalize why you should be happy in the conditions you find yourself in. It is imperative that you define your ideal form of happiness, as letting others decide what it is will lead you down someone else’s path. Having material ideals for happiness is not an unreasonable goal, as it can lead you down productive and lucrative paths. Seeking wealth, fame, or a family are all noble aspirations in their own right, as are having abstract ideals for happiness, like peace of mind.
If your ideal form of happiness is dependent on other people, you must also come to terms with the truth that you will never find that ideal of happiness. Someone else’s path may intersect with yours or join to form a crossroads, but they will never merge as one. Nor should they, as that is the ultimate sacrifice of freedom, be it becoming a slave or taking one to achieve happiness. To continue down this path without considering this is to invite ruin. This truth does not negate the pursuit of happiness, but rather invites a man to contemplate what he truly desires.
On Finding the Balance
Happiness and freedom often conflict with each other, and it is each man’s challenge to deal with this eternal battle as best he can. To some, seeking and finding their ideals of happiness is a freedom from a life of meaningless. To others, being free to find your own path brings the greatest sense of happiness. The most important thing to remember is to avoid using one to achieve the other. Sacrificing your freedoms to pursue happiness will render those ideals useless, as you will have no agency over which to enjoy them. Likewise, sacrificing your physical or mental well-being over the pursuit of physical or intellectual freedom will only weaken yourself as you walk your path. You are at your strongest when you are as happy and as free as you are able to be each day. The balance will constantly shift as you strive towards your goals, and it is up to you to tip the scales back in your favor and restore the balance.