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Constraint

Politics is born out of constraint as economics is born out of scarcity. Constraint can be understood as a limit to freedom. The irony of constraint is that, while it limits freedom, great human creativity and achievement arises from it. A good example is a jazz band. In this example, rhythm is the element of constraint. The musicians have freedom to express themselves and their instruments on top of the rhythm, but that freedom is not absolute if they want to maintain the format and structure of the groove. An exception to this would be ‘free jazz’, but generally people agree that the greatest jazz comes from a band keeping (or constrained by) time. The masters of jazz such as Coltrane demonstrate how much freedom and creativity is possible even when constrained. This is also true of politics. Humans are political animals as Aristotle said and our great achievements occur in a political context. Sometimes, unfortunately, the constraints are so harsh that they constitute oppression. In this case we could say that human achievements born from oppression occur +despite+ politics, and we could also justifiably say that oppression stifles human achievement and creativity. This is of course the challenge of the politician, to bring about a just state of affairs that allows human flourishing. The just politician will attempt to remove a number of ‘artificial’ constraints e.g. inadequate infrastructure and medical care, however (s)he will seek to educate people to work within a ‘natural’ set of constraints such as the ecosystem and human social and cultural patterns. The human spirit itself is placed within a constrained set of circumstances – the body. The challenge of human life is spiritual freedom and expression within the body. It is only when we die that this challenge – and constraint – no longer applies.

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Impractical Spirituality

The spirit is impractical. The spirit is of no use. It cannot be used. Any attempt to use the spirit contravenes its nature. Impractical spirituality is based on this recognition. Rather than try to use the spirit, impractical spirituality enjoys the beauty of spirit for its own sake.

To directly seek practical applications of the spirit such as ‘spirituality in the workplace’ is to miss the point. Sure, we can appreciate the beauty of the spirit anywhere: in the home, workplace, in the car, or on a plane — but attempts to put the spirit to use in those places are like trying to form water into a chair.

Better to let the spirit use us, because the spirit is not ours to command. In Arabic the path of the spirit (ruh) is called Ruhaniyat.

“They ask thee [Mohammed] concerning the spirit. Say: “the spirit comes by command of God. Only a little knowledge of it is given to you, (O men!)” Qur’an 17:85