Column by tzo.
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The Voluntaryist Master was addressing a new class of students.
"As a Voluntaryist, your mission will be to educate others about human freedom. But in order to spread the ideas of freedom, you must first become a free person. And in order to become a truly free person, you will need to learn, unlearn and relearn many things. But acquiring an accurate body of knowledge is just the beginning.
It is not enough to understand the definitions and theories relating to freedom—freedom must be lived and experienced—it needs to vibrate in your bones. Freedom is like true love; like physical pain; like the fragrance of a rose. One can consult a dictionary for their definitions, and one can read all about them in encyclopedias, but until they are experienced, they cannot be truly understood.
True—we are reasoning animals—but we are also instinctual, emotional beings. It would be inaccurate to consider the attributes of reason and emotion as being unrelated to one another. To understand why we believe any particular thing, we use both reason and emotion—the logical sense and the intuitive sense—in order to explain that belief.
One cannot properly call himself a Voluntaryist if he only understands the concepts on an intellectual level. One must be immersed in, be at one with, and be transformed by, freedom. Freedom is logical, instinctual, and passionate. Without all these ingredients being present, the meal cannot be prepared.
This enlightenment process is not easy, nor is it fast. There are many paths to it—as many as there are individuals seeking those paths. Each journey is unique, and I will be more a guide to you than teacher. I can help you avoid some of the common pitfalls, but I cannot do the work for you. If you do not truly wish to reach the enlightened state, then you will not.
But if you do, then you will succeed after much hard work.
Your minds' muscles have been atrophied from lack of use in the direction you will be headed, making the journey difficult. There will be times when you will despair. You will want to give up, and everyone around you will be encouraging you to do so. But you will forge ahead nonetheless, and you will succeed.
Then the world will become a different place—you will see it though a new set of eyes. I cannot adequately explain this new perspective any more than I can explain the fragrance of a rose. All I can attest to is that I have benefited immensely from the experience, and I believe the same rewards await anyone who undertakes the endeavor.
But I reiterate—the path is long and arduous. You may leave some friends behind. You may make some new ones. Anything is possible. I am here to tell you that you should expect at least one year to pass before you reach even a first, minimal state of enlightenment. And even this will not be the path's end.
The path is unending, but once your path lies within the land of enlightenment, you will have entered a new world, and the walk will become ever more tranquil and pleasant.
You all have the common vision of wanting to change the world for the better, but this will prove impossible until you change yourself for the better. Free your mind first, and all the rest will follow.
Calmly confident, the people will be drawn to you as a source of peace and grace that stands out in a turbulent world of violent chaos. You will not need to go out and spread the word so much as you will make yourself available to receive the people who will come to your door seeking understanding.
That is all for today."
After the class, one of the students approached the master to speak with him.
"Sir, I am ready and very excited to reach this enlightened state. But one year is a long time! I don't doubt that there is much work to do—and I am not at all daunted by the prospect—but to have to wait a whole year! This is asking too much!
Sir, I will be your most dedicated student. I will work twice as hard as all the others. Morning, day, and night I will keep at it. I will memorize the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, if necessary.
The writings of Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Washington, and Adams will become my rosary.
I will strive to understand the esoteric knowledge of the modern-day Patriots—the subtleties of the strawman, microprinting, allodial land titles, and all the rest.
I will join the Libertarian Party. I will study the issues and vote for policies that increase freedom. I will fight to help get men like Ron Paul elected in order to help get this great Republic back into the shape that the Founding Fathers intended. I will run for office myself, if I have to. Whatever it takes to help move myself and my fellow man back towards freedom.
Sir, you can see my obvious enthusiasm and dedication. I will be the best student you have ever seen. But one year is too long! With my extraordinary effort, please, tell me—how long do you think it might take for me to reach that first, minimal state of enlightenment?
The master studied the enterprising student for a few moments as he thoughtfully stroked his own chin. Then he gave his carefully considered response:
"Twenty years."

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tzo's picture
Columnist tzo
Columns on STR: 64

tzo now lives in your head.


Glen Allport's picture

Tzo, this is a gem. The writing and the sensibility underlying your text put me in mind of the Gia Fu Feng & Jane English translation of the Tao Te Ching:


Actually, Lao-Tzu's text has a number of sections I find bizarre -- probably my own failing, but still, the point is "Zenigma" doesn't suffer from that, so it's BETTER than the Tao Te Ching! Alright, I'm being silly -- maybe -- but I like your column a lot.

And I agree with you: 20 years sounds about right. For the more promising students, anyway. Most won't get there. Hell, most won't even start the trip.

I think that for those who DO start along that road, most early students WILL be well-served to read Jefferson and to seek out a variety of material, some of which will not be voluntaryist but merely minarchist (this, because their first Master won't be you or any other voluntaryist). Learning the difference is part of the journey. And to even BEGIN, the student must first be awakened to the topic, and attracted to it enough to begin investing time and energy in learning more.

Until there is a voluntaryist star (of whatever type) bright enough to draw the eyes of millions of potential students, I'll continue supporting efforts to awaken people to the basic idea of freedom. I don't have to agree with Paul's (for example) every thought to appreciate that many who are voluntaryists today began their journey at the signpost of small-government libertarianism. People have to start somewhere, and Paul is the most powerful and successful contemporary figure encouraging people to start thinking about what State coercion really means.

Aside from that small difference (seems small to me, anyway) of approach or opinion, "Zenigma" seems perfect to me. Thanks for writing it.

tzo's picture

Thanks, Glen, I appreciate the kind words.

And I agree with you that all the minarchist people and ideas are invaluable as far as being part of the learning process. But if a person confuses minarchy with freedom, he may become stuck in that rut for a very long time—and in fact may never get out of it, as you pointed out.

I believe the student was treating all the minarchist people and ideas as ends—confusing them with freedom itself—and this is what the master wanted to point out with his blunt statement. The student will now have in the back of his mind that the master has a different opinion of what freedom is, and so will ask himself—even as he admires Ron Paul speeches—why is this not good enough for the master?

Having that seed planted, if he wants to make it grow, he can.

Also, I have that same translation of the Tao Te Ching at home


and I always enjoy going through it every once in a while. One of my other favorite bits of Zen is the Ten Bulls


Glen Allport's picture

Thanks for the tenbulls page; very nice. I have physical copies of the Gia Fu Feng & Jane English translation at home; bought them many years ago and re-read them every few years. I love English's gorgeous b/w photos and it seems strange now when I see the text without them. Also, most other translations (there must be hundreds, including one by SciFi author Ursula K. Le Guin [ http://www.amazon.com/Lao-Tzu-Ching-about-Power/dp/1590307445/ref=sr_1_3... ]) are very different and none grab me the way this one does.

Suverans2's picture

This "student" missed the salient point of the lecture, IMO.

"But in order to spread the ideas of freedom, you must first become a free person[sic]."

"It is not enough to understand the definitions and theories relating to freedom—freedom must be lived and experienced..."

"One can consult a dictionary for their definitions, and one can read all about them in encyclopedias, but until they are experienced, they cannot be truly understood."

"One cannot properly call himself a Voluntaryist if he only understands the concepts on an intellectual level."

That, is the "first, minimal state of enlightenment".

tzo's picture

For anyone interested in digging deeper into Tao Te Ching:


ElasahBazlith's picture


The jussive mood and they claim necessity?
To think it might just be a butterfly effect.
A look in the mirror.
How to start the day?
Shall you remain outfaced by mirror?
The pleochroic thought washed through your mind of granting plenitudinary power or destroying the tyrants and the effect it would have on present and future children.

Snack time as one tyre.

Ignorance is the curse of God.
Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.
How is that for a fount?
Become the factotum.
Nor let thy conquests only be her orexis of prow.
My little silphology, nothing teaches like experience.

Suverans2's picture

If we wash away all the extraneous babble, (of which there is much), the bottom line, as they say, is, "nothing teaches like experience".

Suverans2's picture

Greetings ElasahBazlith,

You may find THIS helpful for your next "little silphology". ;)

Al's picture

Yes, tzo and Glen, 20 years is about right. I wasted about that much time doing politics before I finally acknowledged the futility.
What can I say, sometimes I'm a bit slow.
Since I've gotten off the futile path, I travel down one more promising. It will take me more than a year - as I said, I can be a bit slow - but I'm no longer in a hurry.