Freedom is a virtue if properly practiced. Perhaps freedom is most real and most really a virtue when one stops being freed from and starts being freed to. Liberal entitlements or Fundamentalist enforcements rid a person of certain common containments, while at the same time confining him within a (slightly) larger prison.
What if there is a third alternative, or a series of other choices, that might elevate? To free people (not from a small cage to a larger one) but from any cage to none at all, might we not simply have to overcome our own timid spirit and the seduction of comfort? This world does not give an easy existence to any or allow a comfortable existence to many. When we achieve comfort within our cage it is not easy to surrender ease, even to obtain or offer freedom. Still, if we are brave we can be freer than the coward. We can leave something better because we use our freedom for virtue.
The fate of young men/women who come after us is paramount if we are to rightly use whatever freedom we can dare. This world will not be a large cage for the young. The ice melts, the heavens shrivel, the oceans rise and the land shrinks. The world is smaller, more crowded, less arable. Where we fought for comfort they may strive for survival.
We understand pain and inevitability. Life contracts, while the grave beckons. Yet, we are not like the Existentialists who look on their own fate and despair, as though their passing makes life inane. We are believers, often not very good ones, but free believers, able to guide the young who press hard on our heels.
We might be better guides if we lead younger people though the narrow labyrinth of the soul. The spirit is wide, the heart spacious but the soul is a tiny cataract. To find the soul is an exhausting search. To fix the soul is a lifetime's work. To free the soul is virtually impossible. The empty minded stop with the body, the superficial penetrate only to the heart; the soul is a sterner mistress. She will not permit just any suitor to enter her parlor.
The heart is the first to despair when the body starts to reach its inevitable pain. The heart can only see what is real for now. The soul looks out, blinking, owl-like, from its recessed chamber, to see what might be next.
Pain and inevitability seem to hinder men who might benefit from freedom. Still, pain and its inevitable end need not become despair if we find (and learn to live in) the soul. The soul wants joy, peace, hope and love. All of these soul things we meet at Advent and find again, for the last time, on some Resurrection Sunday.
The Christ came.
The Christ lived.
The Christ died.
The Christ preached deliverance to the most wretched spiritual captives.
The Christ rose again.
Abandoned and despised, He never quit trying to live in the soul.
We may not relieve the material poverty around us. We ought to try. We may not assuage the inner torment of the heart's feelings in our fellows when man disappoints himself yet again. We ought to try.
We might free men from their soul cage to no cage at all, running all the while this risk; they may neither stay near us nor go with us when they are free to live in the soul. Still, we can try.