A few years ago I re-purchased my favorite textbooks from my undergraduate years: The Search for Personal Freedom, Volumes 1-2, by Neal M. Cross, Robert C. Lamm, and Leslie Dae Lindou.

Re-reading them was simply pure joy and provided fresh insights and inspiration toward my lifelong love of integrated, inter-disciplinary thinking and ideas. I reconnected with the works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Dante, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Beethoven, Bach, and so many other luminaries.

Because artists naturally respond to the issues of their own time, each volume unit is prefaced by an overview of the social, scientific, religious, and philosophical climate of the period.

Explaining the books’ title, the authors contend that “freedom is an active process, defined as the ability to accomplish one’s purposes and desires.” A person is “free” who knows what they want to do and why they want to do it.

And then, such a liberated person must have “enough skill and knowledge to go about the job of accomplishing such purposes with a minimum of frustration.”

The premise of these two volumes is that human beings, to have freedom, must exercise their powers of intellect and emotion toward the accomplishment of their purposes.

Furthermore, the scholars state, we have never known, and probably do not now know, the true nature of the world in which we live. Human institutions are the crystallizations of our ways of living at any given time; and certain groups within a population are primarily responsible for change—including the artists.

During times of chaos (such as today?), those who determine the ultimate human values are the artists such as writers, painters, sculptors, musicians, choreographers, filmmakers, and television producers. These persons are aware within themselves and within other people of the confusions and conflicts which upset human lives.

The great artists are the ones who supply the final answers about our purposes in the world. Each of us, artists or not, would do well to more deeply understand the historical context of the arts, grow our own integrative thinking, and see that no creative action is too small to not impact the interrelated system we call life on Earth.

And then, do the work of art itself.

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