There was a time in my life when I did not fully appreciate the value of personal independence. I was unduly enamored by the idea of security and safety: it was preferable, I thought, to accept a “safe” job uncongenial to my nature, than to take the employment choice I truly wanted. Applied to women, I often thought it preferable to continue in a mediocre relationship, rather than terminate it, since “nothing better” was on the horizon. What a fool I was. I now recognize this mentality for what it is: an expression of fear. Fear, born from a mentality of scarcity. We fear that nothing better will come along, or that the leap into the unknown holds intolerable terrors.
The paradox of this mentality is that an unsatisfying job and an unsatisfying relationship are not “secure” at all. There is no “safety” in them: they are inherently unstable, and become more so with the passage of time. For when we do something that violates our inner nature, our spirit eventually revolts. And then: down come the precious delusions which we have so laboriously erected. It cannot be otherwise. It cannot.
Let us hear what our brother Phaedrus has to say about this. Readers will remember Phaedrus, as I have leaned on his wisdom before. In “The Lean Wolf and the Plump Dog” [Phaedrus III.7], he narrates as follows (with any errors in translation being my own, of course):
As liberty is sweet, I will speak briefly.
A wolf of lean countenance chanced upon a well-fed dog.
After exchanging greetings, the wolf said:
“How is it, I’d like to know, that your coat shines so?
With what food to you get such a body?
I, who am stronger by far, nearly am perishing of famine!”
The dog replied simply: “You would be able to have the same,
If you could fulfill the requirements of my master.”
“And what is that?” said the wolf.
“For I am truly ready for anything. Now I suffer from the snow and rain,
In the forest, bringing me a difficult life. How much
Easier it would be for me to live under a roof and to be satisfied
With sufficient food and leisure!”
The dog replied: “Then come with me!”
As they walked off, the wolf noticed the bare spot
On the dog’s neck, worn away from his chain.
“What is this, friend?” said the wolf
Said the dog: “Nothing.”
“Still, tell me!” said the wolf.
The dog said, “Because I see sharply, they chain me up by day,
And in the morning also, so that I keep quiet, and at night
So that I may be vigilant.
Between day and night I am untied so that I may have some movement.
Bread is brought occasionally. And my master gives bones from his table.
The family tosses morsels to me from what they don’t want.
Thus my stomach is filled with little effort.”
Said the wolf: “And if you have a mind to go away, is that allowed?”
“It is not,” replied the dog.
“Enjoy these things that you praise, my friend,” said the wolf.
“I do not want this domain of yours. It is no freedom to me.”
Security that comes with the price tag of your freedom is no security at all. There are many times in our lives when we will be faced with the temptations of comfort, security, and money. And there will be times when these inducements come at the cost of our spiritual independence and the integrity of our souls. In Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Wall Street, the office sage, played by Hal Holbrook, counsels a young Charlie Sheen: “The thing about money, Bud…it makes you do things you don’t want to do”.
I recognize that there are times in life when we must make short-term decisions based on survival, and that such decisions may not be ideal. Survival is the first imperative, of course. I do not doubt that. But that is another matter entirely. I am speaking of a situation here in which someone chooses to go for the easy money, or the convenient woman, when it is not really his true wish to do so. And woe unto him who does this. He will regret this decision.
My brother, listen to me, and hear my words: your freedom is not negotiable. Your soul is not for sale. You shall not traffic in your spiritual independence. You will be happier doing what your inner nature impels, even if the financial reward appears less on the surface, than in selling your soul to the highest bidder.
Know, O my brother, that the craving for security and safety in this tumultuous world cannot be gained at the expense of your soul. This craving is the voice of fear. For the bargain for your soul is an unequal one, and will corrode your spirit. As you adopt the mentality of abundance, you will see that the quest for absolute security is a fool’s errand. There is no guaranteed security, no guaranteed safety.
You alone are the guarantor of your own destiny, and your own independence. The wise man will aspire to the gateway of independence and wisdom. Do not exhaust yourself in the search for this gateway: for the gateway is within you.
Read More: This Is How To Be A Man