Many Freedoms, and The First and Last Freedom3 min read

What does freedom mean to me?

I believe there are a variety of freedoms in life.

Sometimes it can be useful to think of them as degrees of freedom. For example, the way that my life is right now, I am free to buy a car and drive it. There are degrees of freedom here though. Practically speaking, I can’t buy just any car. Some cars are museum pieces, not for sale, and others would be wildly impractical (demolition derby cars are not for a night on the town), and other cars are simply not in my budget.

Most people are familiar with financial constraints, one of many governing factors in their everyday degrees of freedom. Some people I know might avoid taking dates to a fancy restaurant, due to the cost, while others might be thinking, “Maybe we should sell one of the art pieces in order to finance our nephew’s tuition.” Now let’s consider these constraints in terms of currency.

Why is it called currency? It can be useful to think of currency as currents, see?

Like the currents of streams and rivers, currency has an effect because it flows. It is dynamic. With access to more currency, we can see how one might generate more power. They could buy more houses, which they could rent to more people, and they might generate more profit that way, for example. It’s similar with water flows and the generation of electricity. Since the early days of electrical transmission, Niagara Falls has powered factories in multiple countries. On the other hand, if one can only access a small creek to generate power, it might light a house, but that would be all. (Note that we talk about ‘electrical current’ as well.)

I would like to explore a freedom that is primary to financial currency however. There are very financially poor people who “have” a lot of it, and there are very financially rich people who “have” practically none of it. What is it?

The most important channeling of currency ever known: perception.

Attention is the most precious resource. Except perhaps in meditation, we channel our attention with the flows of perception. This is why I am so interested in developing tools for people to cultivate their everyday perception, of their freedoms, of their constraints.

We might imagine a world in which there are only several people, and practically all the natural resources of the world are somehow depleted. Time is short. Still their attention would carry on a bit longer, and if they are to die of resource exhaustion, certainly the attention they might share amongst eachother would be the most important form of currency flowing.

This is also the case in a world of abundance, for it is our perception that sets our engineering of otoher currencies, whether liquified energy or ideas.

We now live in a world where we are besieged everyday by technologies designed to capture our attention. This is how the manipulation of perception plays out over time. With many engineered moments of attention, we find our unspoken and unacknowledged modes of perception transformed, and we often don’t realize it.

Let’s invert.

Let’s use our attention to amplify our degrees of freedom. Let’s learn to cultivate our own technologies of perception, so that we are less the unwitting harvested fruits of the attention economy but the thoughtful planters of a rich and abundant world of the mind, one in which we cultivate the perception and practical competence necessary to address our world’s grand challenges.

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