Watching the movie Braveheart has given me a glimpse of an ideal that has the potential to transcend Arete- Freedom.
If you look closely, just behind every form of greatness lies the idea of freedom. Braveheart and Martin Luther King Jr. sought freedom from political oppression. Legendary martial artist Bruce Lee used his fluid movements as a way to ‘honestly and freely express oneself’. Great musicians and poets eventually transcend the conventional knowledge in their field to bring out art with no limitations. Scientists constantly seek freedom from the current limitations of human knowledge. The greatest fashionistas stray from the restrictions of what is considered ‘in’ and freely set their own fashion agendas. The greatest among us are the freest. And the freest among us are worshiped by the unfree masses.
So my philosophy has been adjusted from merely striving after Arete to going one step beyond it and reaching for freedom. It is not that I am abandoning the pursuit of Arete, since the pursuit of true freedom includes it. In my physical training, I will strive for a balanced and functional physique that is not limited in mobility or movement through inflexibility, excess muscle or fat. In my intellectual pursuits, I will read broadly and voraciously so that I am free to synthesize different perspectives and ideas instead of being limited to a set pattern of thought or knowledge. I will also work to increase my vocabulary so that my thoughts can be expressed freely. In my finances, I will strive to established multiple passive sources of income so that I am not trapped or dependent on one source. Socially, I will work to break away from the social conditioning and condition myself to behave as my true self always regardless of who is watching. Spiritually, I will use meditation as a tool to avoid unnecessary attachment to material possessions or relationships that ought to expire.
The paradox of attaining these freedoms in my life is that in the moment I cannot be free to do whatever I will. To achieve physical freedom and mobility I am not free to drink as many Coca Colas as I want. To achieve intellectual freedom I am not free to slack on Sunday afternoon to watch mindless YouTube videos and must pick up a book instead. To achieve financial freedom I am not free to splurge on things I don’t need and must be rigidly disciplined with my expenditures. Discipline and self-restraint paradoxically leads to freedom.