“Man has used his freedom to waste his freedom; and it is [therefore] his destiny to lose his destiny.”
Our best ideals, born from the finest potentials of human nature, project a destiny of greatness, a future that abounds with peace, justice and compassion.
But that destiny comes with no guarantee. The very freedom that makes this possibility authentic and reachable opens the door for its failure. It is a destiny that cannot be forced but only chosen, willingly, enthusiastically. Anything less and the ideals it is based on are diminished.
Freedom cannot be separated from responsibility. Indeed, responsibility is the essence of freedom. You cannot blame others for decisions you freely make.
But some people refuse to see that way. For them, freedom is just doing or believing whatever they want—without regard for the consequences.
As Tillich points out, if freedom is necessary for the fulfillment of human nature, which it is, irresponsibility uses ill-conceived freedom to waste it. This makes our potential destiny unreachable, replacing it with something small, mean, unformed, perpetually incomplete and bordering on maliciousness.
To really be free, one must first be a complete human being. That includes a healthy conscience and the ability to utilize moral discernment through reason.
When we push conscience aside, ignore moral responsibilities, fail to apply reason honestly and intelligently, the freedom we employ is broken, undeveloped, only primitively human. Thoughts and values are not so much “free” (as in intelligently deciding from the wholeness of one’s being), but crudely instinctive and repetitiously engrained, and therefore not free at all.
Human nature requires more than that. Life itself requires more. Conscience, history, and civilization do as well.
There can be no doubt what is required of us. Human potential is more than a possibility. It is an internal mandate rooted in the knowledge of knowing right from wrong.
Freedom carries an obligation to advance humanity forward. We all know this. It is our “telos,” the “inner aim” of who we are when human nature dominates. We disconnect from that when external distractions lead us astray, elevating unessential, selfish concerns. Freedom in chains.
Human destiny depends on what we do with our freedom. We should not waste it. The potential for incredibly inspiring greatness is in us all. No doubt about it. How we respond to that is not so definite. Indeed, we seem to be at an inflection point where a species-wide commitment for advancement must be made before civilization is lost.
That commitment is formed one person at a time.
This is a request for each of us to make that commitment now.