It’s been a long time coming. Back around 1969 or 1970, I read in a Popular Science Magazine that everyone would own a flying car by the year 2,000. When the millennium turned and everyone was looking out for Y2K, I was still on the lookout for flying cars. Popular Science did me wrong by getting my hopes up like that.
However, I may get a flying car yet. This month, Klein Vision released footage of a test drive/flight of its version of the flying car. Other design firms are busy with their own prototypes in Europe, Japan, and the United States. All I can say is it’s about time.
Why was I so enamored with flying cars? For the same reason, I think, that I dreamed – this went on once or twice a month for years – that I could jump into the air and sail at a leisurely pace wherever I chose. Flight, whether in a futuristic car or in a dream, represented freedom, the absence of restraint, the power of unimpeded motion.
Freedom is one of humanity’s big ideas. It goes back at least to the political freedoms of ancient Athens, though Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle each criticized the forms such freedoms sometimes took. The great Athenian orator and statesman Pericles once said, “The freedom which we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life … in Athens, we live exactly as we please…”
No people since the Greeks have been more committed to freedom than Americans. James Madison called the spirit of the American people “a spirit which nourishes freedom and is in return nourished by it.” Samuel Adams called the right to freedom “the gift of God Almighty.” Thomas Jefferson cautioned that freedom can only be retained at the price of “eternal vigilance.” Ben Franklin reminded Americans that “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.”
Abraham Lincoln referred to freedom as “the last, best hope of the earth.” Dwight Eisenhower said that “America is best described by one word: freedom.” But what is freedom? Are people “born free” or are they, as the old spiritual intoned, on their “way to the freedom land”? What is freedom?
As a political ideal, freedom is embodied in specific rights. Hence, we have the right to assemble, the right to speak, the right to a speedy and public trial, the right to due process, the right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and more. Such freedoms are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Yet any and all of these freedoms may be possessed by a person who is very unfree in his or her personal life. Such a person may be enthralled by passions, fears, and addictions at the same time they are receiving due process. They may be enslaved by illegal drugs while enjoying the freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.
Political freedom is worth fighting for but it is not the only, nor the highest, form of freedom. A just society requires political freedoms, such as those promised in the Bill of Rights, but a fulfilled life needs a more comprehensive freedom, personal in nature, spiritual in origin.
This is the freedom of which Jesus spoke when he claimed, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” St. Paul was adamant with his readers: “It is for freedom Christ has set us free.” It is a freedom that is consistent with our nature and can only be achieved by becoming one’s true self.
God is the great emancipator. He desires people to be genuinely free. But this freedom, like political freedom, comes at a price. It is one of the great paradoxes of life: We become free only as we submit to God. As the Scottish poet George Matheson put it: “Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.”
One major religion makes submission the goal of life, but Christianity sees submission as a means. Freedom is the goal (though not the only one), submission the vehicle, and confession of Jesus as Lord (to borrow biblical language) the path that leads to the goal. And no one is more pleased for people to reach that goal than God himself.
(First published by Gannett.)