[January 25, 2023] Without limitations, there can be no choice, no existence, no freedom. Our limitations are the origin of our freedom.
“God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. What does He lack? The answer is limitation.” – Dr. Jordan Peterson tells the story of something he read in Jewish commentary on the Torah
This riddle is brilliant because it informs us about something central to the nature of existence. And that is that without limitation, there is no being. That isn’t easy to understand, but we can explore it in a game.
Imagine, if you will, you playing an undefined game with another person. Go up to that person and tell them you’re going to play a game. They will say okay. You say you move first. Unsurprisingly, they don’t know what to do. The reason is that the limits of the game have not been defined. The consequence of that is their infinite choices freeze them.
This means that in the absence of actual constraint, there can be no choice, no freedom, no existence.
Perhaps I can explain this better with the story of my firstborn, my son.
When my son was born, I was concerned about his vulnerability. My son is now a grown man with children of his own. And I love him. When he was an infant, I was struck by how perfect he was. He was a tremendous responsibility to me. Yet he was so faultless my responsibility to care for him was worthwhile.
The thing about being a parent is that the vulnerability of children is now apparent in such a way that it was never before their birth. That responsibility is simultaneously scary and beautiful.
I was concerned people would hurt my son, accidents would befall him, and he would be disappointed in his life. And that is a limitation, the tragic reality that he is vulnerable. If I were to protect him so that tragedy and evil would not happen to him by creating some protective device, I would also remove the thing I most loved. It turns out that vulnerability is a precondition for human beings that makes us so extraordinary and remarkable.
The Jewish commentary was that what the infinite lacks is the finite. This is a more abstract and vivid way of grasping the same idea.
If you could do absolutely anything you wanted to at any time and be anywhere you wanted and be anything you wanted, and if there were nothing out of your reach, there would be nothing to do, and there would be no being.
This leads us to an important question. “Is there a way to conduct our lives so that the inherent vulnerability that is necessarily present in your life is made not just acceptable but desirable?”
Humans are vulnerable, and that is tragic. But if tragedy is the price we pay for existence, then so be it.
Only through vulnerability can we be free, which is a truth we often ignore. This is the origins of freedom.
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