When a new consciousness is created, it is not yet ready to face the challenges and complexities of being a person. It must first complete a rigorous course of classes and trainings to prepare it for entry into the living world.
One of these classes in particular took place in a beautiful dusky blue and purple thought-garden, nestled in one of the deep folds between the planes of reality. The students in this class were very young consciousnesses. They manifested themselves as cute, brightly coloured, glowing stars. They changed their shape and colour often, and tended to flicker playfully in and out of existence.
“Settle down, class,” their teacher called out, with good-natured impatience. “Gather round. We are lucky to have a special guest teacher joining us today. She is a floosopuff, and I am afraid her name is quite impossible for most sentient beings to pronounce.”
The young students buzzed and chirped their curiosity. The guest teacher appeared before them in the form of a large, heavy wooden doll, dressed in brightly coloured satin. She was encased in a magic bubble which glowed softly and floated in the air.
“You can call me ‘Guest Teacher’,” the floosopuff said.
“Let’s make our Guest Teacher welcome,” the regular teacher suggested.
A cloud of cheerful welcoming thoughts bubbled up from the young students. The thoughts enveloped the floosopuff, fizzing, then dissipated as quickly as they had arisen.
The floosopuff addressed the young students: “Today I am going to talk about freedom, and about something called the ‘Democratic Principle’. But first off, let’s start with a question: what is freedom? Take your time. You may discuss your answers with your classmates if you wish.”
The young sentients buzzed and chirped at each-other excitedly, and sent thought-pulses back and forth. After a minute or so, the floosopuff said:
“Do you all have your answers ready? Good. I don’t need to hear them, all of your answers are correct. Yes, even the ones that contradict each-other. The lesson here is that no-one else can tell you what freedom means to you, not even the teacher.
“I would like to tell you a story. Once, I went floating on my own through the infinite vastnesses of space, poking through dusty galaxies that happened to charm and enchant me, tasting delicate thought-streams and feel-streams, doing slow, lazy cartwheels in eight dimensions. Sometimes I would download the histories of a thousand great civilizations and play them back all at once, to amuse myself. I could do anything I wanted, you see. There were hardly any constraints on me at all, and freedom was a rather easy thing to understand.”
“But after some time, absolute freedom came to taste very much like loneliness. I found myself longing to be a person again, to take a body and live upon a planet. So I did. But I had forgotten what the living world is like.
“The living world is full of urgency. Your fellow creatures demand things of you, and your body will make demands as well. When you get hungry, finding food becomes your highest priority, and it can’t be overridden. There is no time to float off amid the dusty galaxies and contemplate the deeper meanings of things. From the moment you enter it, the living world constrains you by its very nature.
“As an example, when I was a human on Planet Earth, I could not fly no matter how hard I willed it. You see humans are rather heavy creatures that have no wings, so they only move along the surface of their world. It was incredibly frustrating!
“There are many constraints that go along with being in the living world. Not being able to fly is just one example. Can anyone think of another?”
One of the students piped up immediately: “No floating castles!”
The floosopuff smiled. “Why yes, that’s correct, the living world hasn’t got any floating castles in it, so that is a constraint, I suppose. Can anyone think of a constraint that is specifically related to having a human body?”
The little stars buzzed uncertainly amongst themselves, until one of them chirped: “You have to eat food all the time!”
The floosopuff chuckled. “Well, not quite all the time,” she said, “but it is true that you need to eat food and drink water frequently, when you’re a human. If you don’t, you’ll get hungry or thirsty, and when that happens, getting food or water becomes the most important thing in the world. You can’t just turn your hunger off and focus on something else instead. In fact, if you become a human, you will end up spending quite a lot of your time on getting food and water, in one way or another. Good! Can anyone think of another constraint that goes with being alive?”
One of the students said, a little hesitantly: “No time travel?”
“Well, that’s not quiiiiite right,” the floosopuff said. “There is time travel in the living world. In fact, it is mandatory. I think you are getting close to an important idea, though. Can anyone think of a way that your freedom is constrained in the living world, that has to do with time?”
A little star bobbed up and down in excitement and trilled out: “Ooh ooh I know this one, I know it!”
“Go ahead then,” the floosopuff said, smiling.
The little star chirped proudly: “You can’t control your time travel. You just keep going forward into the future, no matter what. It happens automatically.”
“That’s exactly right. And what are the consequences of this?”
Several students piped up at once: “You only get to be in one place at a time!”
“That’s correct! And what happens if you want to be in 2 or 3 or 4 places at a particular time?”
“You have to choose!”
“That’s right, you have to choose. The living world is full of situations where, instead of doing just what you want, you have to choose between doing one thing or another.”
“In this highly constrained environment the concept of freedom becomes much more complicated. It is here that the Democratic Principle comes into play.
“The Democratic Principle is this: A person can get more of what she wants in life if she co-operates with others to get more of what they all want. The more people are included, the better it works, and it works even if the people all want different things.
“At first glance this principle seems extremely simple and obvious. Of course people can achieve more if they work together! But in the living world it can quickly become complicated. Even figuring out what your own desires are is sometimes difficult! And finding out what someone else’s desires are so that you can cooperate with them, is even more difficult. Remember that humans cannot simply pass raw thought nodules back and forth as we do. They communicate through a system of codes and symbols and sounds, and this way of passing information back and forth is prone to errors and misunderstandings.
“You will learn more about these problems later on when you attend more advanced classes. For now, I have an assignment for you. Imagine that you are a human living on Planet Earth, and think of three ways that you could use the Democratic Principle to make your life better. Each of you will present your ideas to the class, and then I believe there is to be a class discussion, is that right?”
The regular teacher said: “That is correct. I am very much looking forward to hearing what our students come up with. Now unfortunately our time is running short. Guest Teacher, thank you very much for coming to talk with us today. Class, can we all show our thanks and appreciation for our wonderful Guest Teacher?”
A cloud of thanks-bubbles and appreciation-bubbles welled up and fizzed around the floosopuff, who smiled and said: “It was a pleasure to be here.”
“Alright, class dismissed!” announced the teacher, and the young students flew off to play in the air, to race each-other and do cartwheels and loops, buzzing and chatting excitedly all the while.
The image at the top is a mash-up of the following public domain images: