“Pasărea-zar” din seria de desene Zbor/ Maglasi, (Foto credit: Andrei Sântea Kids)
The philosophy teacher
ACT I, SCENE I
In a classroom. The students are facing the audience and the teacher has his back at the audience. He is a philosophy teacher Carmen is in love with. All the characters besides the church painter are in this scene.
Did you ever see the light that comes crushing on the pavement – you’d say the stones are dislodged – as it courses out of a prison window? Did you ever see men and women after they’ve read a book? How their faces open as though touched by the breeze? Freedom, dear children, is the most important gift we have in this world.
[in the meantime, Carmen stares intensely at the teacher, she is entranced by his words, Chris scribbles nervously in his notebook, Anna draws something thinking the teacher is too much while Dan and Mary are listening to music headphones on their heads and holding hands].
I beg to differ. What do you do with freedom if you are not happy? If, for instance, you know you are going to die pretty soon? What can freedom give you?
Freedom can…errr… give you the choice between good and bad, for instance.
What good is there in a bad, irreparable situation?
[intervenes to help the teacher]:
There are plenty of good things even then. Like, for instance, the time you spend with your family, a good meal you’re having for the last time, the last cigarette.
The only good choice you have in a situation like that is to take your own life.
What are you talking about Anna? How can you say something like that? We are not entitled to take our own lives! It’s a sin.
Anna stares blankly:
Chris continues, unfazed:
It’s a sin in the eyes of whom? You can’t possibly mean God! God doesn’t exist. I hope we’re not going to hear a Christian sermon in the Philosophy class! We have enough of that in the Theology class. Freedom without happiness is nil. Freedom without intelligence is nil. Freedom without tolerance is nil. Freedom without love is nil.
Carmen, reacting violently:
Love is something that has nothing to do with freedom. We never have a choice when we fall in love. We don’t follow criteria, we don’t respect the rules and we forget about ourselves. We don’t have freedom, yet we are full of love and happiness [stares intently at the teacher]
“PÚPĂ” din seria de desene Zbor/ Maglasi (Foto credit: Andrei Sântea)
We’re just coming out of a time when nobody was free and very few were happy. I think freedom has to do with happiness even if it is in opposition with it, or precisely because it is in opposition with it. Who has read Steinhardt’s Journal of Happiness?
[they all raise their hands]
In The Journal, you see how the lack of freedom led to the biggest joy in the life of Steinhardt: the finding of Christ and of his own vocation. In prison and under duress, the spirit soars to unknown heights and is released from the chains of contingency. It finds its freedom and happiness in an imponderable crystal in time.
It’s a delusion. Some people need that, I’ll give you that. Nonetheless, it’s a delusion and a dangerous one. It has taught us to despise the body, to flay it and torture it, to disregard it and to feel shame about it. As long as the body is in chains, the spirit or, as I prefer to call it, the mind, is not free.
I think we are never fully free, never fully happy, never fully loving. I wish we were but we never are.
Why Anna are you so pessimistic? I am free and happy when I write as you are free and happy when you draw. We are free and happy when we go on the Chapel Hill and talk and dream together. As for love, well, you never know it till you’ve known it [looks down and blushes].
We’ll talk about love some other time. For now, I’d like us to talk more about freedom. Let’s take this quote from Periander: ”What is freedom? It is a clear conscience”. Here we see again the idea that freedom comes from within not without. It is our own mind that sets us free (or not).
May I interrupt you for a second? I’ve seen happy criminals who never feel no guilt, I’ve seen Nazis in freedom having a false ID in Argentina or Labrador, I’ve seen parents who harm their children and have no conscience about it. Perhaps you could explain more what “a conscience” is?
Having a conscience literally means having the knowledge of “being with”, that is the first step towards empathy and compassion. You are free when your conscience is clear as regards your deeds or acts towards another person. Or even towards yourself. You, the ultimate stranger.
Oh boy, I love this. It’s like finding a puppy in the street and taking him home lest it should die in the street. Or finding your friend hurt and not ignoring him or her, giving them all the attention and love they need.
Ewwww, that’s too syrupy for me. To me having a clear conscience means fulfilling my own destiny, not doing any harm and minding my own business. Sometimes people are better off left on their own rather than giving them all the attention you’re mentioning.
We never have a clear conscience. We were born in sin as they say and the odds are we will die ever more sinful. As long as there’s kharma, there will never be a clear conscience.
Kharma is not a European concept, Anna but let’s take it at face value for the sake of discussion. It appears in the Buddhist religion related to the idea of a wheel of life held by an ominous demon. In it we alternatively become angels, animals, ghosts or men in different lives. I don’t agree with this model because it gives men very little freedom.
On the contrary, it gives them all the freedom in the world. Plus it makes room for the choice between good and bad deeds which is what Christian freedom is about too as far as I know.
All this religious gibberish is beginning to annoy me. Don’t you understand that doing bad or good has nothing with a clear conscience? I have seen monsters who sleep like babies at night. I have seen politicians who are corrupt to the bone yet they have no misgivings in accumulating more and treading over dead bodies. Truth is man is inherently corrupt and there’s nothing can be done about it. Christianity did nothing but worsen things by giving us more frustrations over this: rules that we cannot possibly obey and, by not obeying them we feel more guilty. The way I see it in this world, the guilty have no conscience and the innocent have a guilty one.
Why don’t you write an essay about that, Chris? We could have it entered in the school essay competition. Your ideas are original and strong.
I have no interest in entering any competition. But thank you, most kind.
Chris is modest in his immodesty.
I think we’re going to wrap it up for today. Thank you for your interventions. For next time, please write a one-page essay on the concept of freedom. I’d like to hear what you each have to say about it on your own, not as you talk to each other.
Can we write about personal experiences or does it have to be abstract?
Normally, the more abstract the better, but in your case I’ll make an exception. Smiles
Carmen blushes violently
Dan and Mary take off their headphones and join the rest of the kids:
Dan and Mary:
Where to, now?
The Chapel Hill, naturally. Did you bring the music? I brought the smokes.
All in order.
Let’s go then.
[end of Scene I]