Dale Frank, "(Goodnight Scrub)" 2003
there is a tendency to think of freedom as the ability to do what one wants, the autonomous exercise of one's individual will; the exercise of one's own power. but this seems incredibly problematic, for what is it that is ours? what do we have that is not a gift, down to our ability to act, and existence itself? in and of ourselves we are nothing, our existence was never ours to command, nor can we will our non-existence. we find ourselves absolutely dependent on a power beyond our mere individuality. and because we are nothing of ourselves, what is the operation of this autonomy which pretends to freedom except the will-to-nothing, the impossible desire for self-annihilation. our will no less than our existence is received from that which is beyond us: from our history, from culture and from that by which even they are.
to fight against this is not to assert one's freedom, but to deny one's reality within the Whole and thus become a slave to the forces one fights against. we delude ourselves that our freedom is somehow our's, a possession that belongs only to us. but this is never so. perhaps the mistake is understandable. my existence is out of my control; i find myself existent from beyond my will in an event that can only be, from my standpoint, fully gratuitous. but surely my actions are mine own. and indeed they involve my reason, my will: freedom. yet, it is no less true of my freedom than it is of my existence itself that it is received as a gift, for my freedom is a mode of my existence.
because we are, of ourselves, nothing, human freedom left to itself is only capable of nothing. it is only by way of that same gratuity by which we find ourselves to exist that we are able to act with meaning. individualism, egotism, self-will is a turn away from meaning toward nihilism and self-destruction. the very gratuity by which we are is also the guarantee of meaning-full action, the fact that we are caught up in something larger than ourselves. freedom is not, then, self-will, but bringing oneself into conformity and identification with the Whole by which we are free.