I was watching a TV crime drama tonight, a rerun of Boston Legal actually, so drama may not be the right word: it’s too full of comedy and romance, but basically drama, and I was struck by a typical dramatic moment, typical for courtroom dramas, I mean. The jury comes back, declares the defendant Not Guilty, and the judge says, “You are free to go.”
Free to go, yes, but go where? For days or weeks the defendant has been caught up in this drama, this challenge, this struggle: how much it defines her, how it gives meaning to this segment of her life, and then suddenly the struggle is over, the game is won, and she can go home.
I guess that will be where she goes: home. But we haven’t even seen her at home; we’ve just seen her at her trial; that’s been her whole life, and now it’s over. It’s a bit like working, and then retiring. Or if not as dramatic as that, like finishing some major project and not knowing what to do next. Where does one go when one is free to go? Is freedom what we really want? Maybe we want the opposite of freedom, maybe we want to have to struggle. What is life without struggle?
I read a letter to the editor earlier today opposing euthanasia as the easy way out and arguing for suffering: suffering is what makes us human, the letter writer argued, and I wasn’t entirely convinced, but maybe … Suffering may be going too far, but you want a little struggle in your life. If you play a game, you want to play against someone who could beat you: you try to make sure they can’t, but if you actually know they can’t, where’s the fun in that? To win without risk is to triumph without glory, as someone once said.
It’s the free to go part that makes me nervous. After the trial, after the game, what then? Wandering in a wasteland of freedom, without purpose, without direction … Let us be bound by something and struggle to be free, and if we get free, let us struggle again.