- - Saturday, September 21, 2019

“Me and you and dog named Boo
Travelin’ and a livin’ off the land.
Me and you and a dog named Boo
How I love being a free man.”
                       — Lobo, 1971

This 1970s ballad makes me think of the years I spent raising my boys.  

I think of them playing with their black Labrador named Blue (We goofed — We mistook Lobo’s pronunciation of his traveling partner’s name and, thus, added a consonant). 

I think of simpler times: of AM/FM radios, summer camp, teenage friends and  a dog’s loyalty — of “me and you and a dog named Boo.”

I think of higher ideals: of the thrill that comes from adventure, the majesty of creation, the pursuit of happiness, and the wonder of life — of “travelin’ and livin’ off the land.”

But most of all, as I hum this tune in the back of my mind, and as I remember watching my sons tussle with their dog, Blue, I think of the internal desire and natural hunger all of us share  for freedom — of “longing to be a free man.”

In addition to being my sons’ best friend, Blue was their consummate teacher, and she taught them an essential life lesson: Freedom is not free. It always comes with a cost. 

If you have ever owned dogs, you know of their natural love for the outdoors, for hunting, for retrieving, for a good run. You have seen the laughter in a Labrador’s eyes when she knows you are about to let her off her leash. You have felt her heart pound with joy as she knew she was about to romp in the fields, swim in a lake or roam in the local woods. You have witnessed, firsthand, what it looks like to love freedom.   

However, if you are a responsible owner and you honestly love your dog, you also know something else. You understand she can never be let loose of the restrictions of a chain, the confines of a kennel or the boundaries of a backyard until she has first acquired discipline. 

A dog can never enjoy “freedom” until she learns to obey. Oh, your dog may be “free” to ignore you and your commands. She may be “free” to walk away rather than sit, stay or heel. She may be “free” to defy your rules and restrictions. She may be “free” to think she is the master, and you’re not. But such disobedience is a story of sadness, and not one of joy because you know that in her ignorant and stubborn way of living your dog is not experiencing a fraction of the freedom that could be hers.

You know if she would listen and accept a few simple boundaries, you could let her go. You know if she would obey your commands, she would be free. She wouldn’t need a kennel or a backyard fence any longer if you could trust her to stay out of the road and away from traffic. She could have total freedom and the run of the property if she just learned to obey some basic rules established for her good and stay away from things that you know could kill her. 

The simplicity of a dog’s life — this lesson of Blue — highlights the fact that freedom is never enjoyed without first paying the price of obedience. No one experiences the “gain” of emancipation without first submitting to the “pain” of correction. Good things never come without a cost. In other words, the payment for liberty is found in the currency of submission.   

G.K. Chesterton once said that when you get rid of the Big Laws, you don’t get liberty but, rather, thousands of little laws that rush in to fill the vacuum. His point was that there is an undeniable paradox of discipline and freedom. Liberty is a direct consequence of knowing and honoring the Big Laws.

Our understanding of these laws has been endowed to us by our Creator, and our willingness to voluntarily live by them is the only foundation we have for truly being free. Law does not override personal initiative. Law leads to freedom just as rhythm and beat, tone, and cadence lead to Mozart. Ignoring the rules of music results in chaos, not concertos. Ignoring the laws of nature given to us by nature’s God leads to slavery, not salvation. 

Someone else once said that freedom is found in knowing and obeying the truth: “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.” 

Maybe this is Chesterton’s point.  

Your dog will never be free until she learns to live within the boundaries created for her own good. Likewise, we will never enjoy freedom until we learn to submit to the few simple laws given to us by God (He only gave us 10 after all, and Jesus summarized them in two). Failing to do so never ends in freedom, but rather in thousands upon thousands of little laws being forced upon us by government.   

Remember this the next time you see your dog running in the fields, delighted with the freedom she enjoys by obeying her master’s voice. You also might want to remember this when you head to the ballot box to vote.  

• Everett Piper, former president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, is a columnist for The Washington Times and author of “Not A Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery 2017).

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