Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Love, Freedom, and Happiness

"Don't be a nuisance to others,"  words addressed to the young Japanese children by their parents. Unfortunately, in Korea, we have an increase of 'no kids zone' —places that parents need not discipline their children. If children are allowed to follow their bliss will they as adults be free and happy? Is this the way to authentic freedom and happiness? An article in the Catholic Weekly introduces this question by a priest college professor.

In modern society, individual freedom and rights are becoming more and more important than traditional values ​​and practices. The World Value Survey from the late 1990s shows that Korean parents are  more concerned with autonomy of the child: self determination according to individual standards but for the professor, autonomy implies morality, principles and norms. Individualism that lacks morality will have a negative impact on the human community. Individualism is spreading in a culture that pursues survival because of the uncertainty and the pressures of a rapidly changing international situation and a financial recession.

In a capitalist society, freedom allows one to enjoy life in proportion to the amount of money one possesses. From a Christian point of view, freedom gives direction and purpose to life. In other words the question in Christian freedom: freedom from— and freedom to—.  Freedom is for what?

In Korean society, Confucian hierarchy and status  coexists within a patriarchal culture; unreasonable and narrowness of outlook are widespread. Resistance to repressive 'external authority' is a sign of today's age. We Christians should read these signs, protect the freedoms and rights of the underprivileged, and respect individuals as personalities that are part of the living organism, not  appendages.

On the other hand, humans need deep prayer, reflection, and deeds to free us from disorderly desires that can dominate us. Even though we  may appear to be free on the surface we may be slaves of unconscious desires. We are all sinners who are easily trapped in a self-centered life (individualism), but are invited to the journey of conversion and rebirth in God's mercy and grace. Furthermore, we need greater freedom to move towards happiness that leads to "loving God and loving our neighbors," without permitting the consumer society to control us.

Resurrection is the invitation of the living Lord who wants our lives to be truly full. The message of the Resurrection presents us with a  way of life. In the paschal  journey we die to ourselves so we can grow as Christians, a pilgrimage that goes beyond individualism to true freedom and happiness. 

The priest professor finishes the article mentioning the book With God in Russia a memoir by Walter Ciszek (1904—1984) an American Jesuit priest. With all the trials and suffering he endured he testifies  that he had an indescribable peace and happiness from God when all his strength was crushed during his years in prison. Our wills, self-love, and attachments make it difficult to receive the fruit of happiness but the more efforts to please God the  greater our love and graces of freedom and true happiness.  St. Augustine said: "Love and do what you want."

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