Tethered by our freedom

Rev. Paul Escamilla, Senior Pastor

It goes without saying that Independence Day brings the idea of freedom to mind. The word “freedom” has its roots in the Indo-European word, pri, meaning “to love.” Pri became priya in Sanskrit, which eventually gave birth to the Old English word freon (this was before air conditioning, so no relation there). Freon eventually forked off in two directions to become, in modern English, friend and free.

It should come as no surprise to learn that the roots of “love,” “friend,” and “free” are intertwined. Experience would confirm that to love another is to offer both friendship and freedom, while to be loved is to experience these two gifts as expressions of that love.

Freedom, then, has more to do with connectedness than with distance. We can judge the extent and quality of our various freedoms far more accurately on the basis of how we are related to the other—whether God, another person or group, or other nations—than how independent we are from any of these. Freedom, in other words, is not so much from others as for others, which means that on a fairly regular basis, and certainly lately on the American scene, it tends to have us in one another’s faces, figuring out what is reasonable, fair, just, and humane for all involved.

The idea that freedom means everyone tolerating one another is rather limited, given the etymology of the word. More appropriate would be the dynamic notion of tolerance growing toward interest, interest evolving into esteem. We ultimately become free when I begin to see you, and you me, as an invaluable addition, indispensable to the grand matrix (some days we might say mishmash) of the good society.

Freedom is not simply an heirloom handed down by our fathers and mothers for safe keeping. It is the shop keeping we do every generation, every decade, every day to cultivate a country in which friendship and love can be lived out respectfully, artfully, even joyfully among both the acquaintance and the stranger.

I know that’s a lofty, maybe even quixotic, vision for human coexistence on a large scale. But then, so is “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all . . . are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Isn’t it outsize dreams as much as anything that we celebrate on Independence Day?

Grace and peace.