It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once. – David Hume
What does that mean?
This is a quote about small steps. Excepting the violent overthrow of a government, the erosion of liberty tends to move slowly. While this quote is about politics, I believe it applies to many other parts of our lives.
Excepting catastrophic illness or accidents, our mobility or ability to act with our bodies seldom occurs all at once. We slowly get worse with age and disuse. Do we stop lifting weights because we get old, or do we get old because we stop lifting weights? Ask me again in twenty years.
Excepting catastrophic illness or accidents, our wits and our wisdom are seldom lost all at once. We slowly get worse with age and disuse. Do we stop thinking clearly because we get old, or do we get old because we stop thinking clearly? Again, ask me again in twenty years.
Why is vigilance important?
Vigilance is defined at thefreedictionary.com as : “to be watchful” or “keenly alert to or heedful of trouble or danger.” To me, that’s what the quote is about. You won’t see anything so big as to be casually noticed, but tiny changes, which you may miss if you aren’t being watchful.
Whether it’s you liberty, your physical health, or your mental powers, you have to keep track of what is going on in order to be able to tell if things are getting better or worse.
Liberty, it is said, is slowly taken by Government if we aren’t careful to take precautions against such theft. Our health and our mental acuity are slowly taken by time, if we aren’t careful to take precautions against such theft.
By being vigilant, we can be better prepared to counter such losses in our lives, be they our liberty, our health, or our mental well being. We need to know what we should be able to do in our freedom, what we can do with our bodies, and how well or clearly we can think.
Once we have a measurement of what we can do today, we simply need to keep checking, and be aware of any changes. That way we can determine if a change is to our benefit or to our detriment. Once we know what the change is, we can determine what we wish to do in response.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Without vigilance, we won’t notice things as they happen, and might not notice them until they are too late. The quote is concerned with the slow loss of liberty, the proverbial death of a thousand small cuts. But the same can happen to our bodies and minds.
As an example, I have lousy posture. For the first three decades of my life, it wasn’t a concern, there weren’t any major problems, no sudden loss of my physical vigor or strength. However, what I wasn’t noticing was the slow changes as some muscles were stretched and others contracted.
Now, because I wasn’t vigilant, I have semi-serious difficulties with my physical self. This could have been prevented if I had done what was proper, but failing that, if I had realized that there were small changes happening to my body. Vigilance.
The same can happen to people’s minds. Medical studies seem to be indicating that mental exercises help keep brain function and memory working better than if one does not doing these things. Again, vigilance helps one detect small changes, although that’s easier to see in others than in yourself.
As for your liberty, the point of the quote, that’s a trickier situation, and will depend on your system of government and your willingness to interact with it or participate in it. That’s a question only you can answer.
Often, with liberty, a government will move only as quickly as the people will allow. In times of emergency, it will move quickly to take liberty, and only grudgingly (if ever) return it. Otherwise, it will move slowly to take only what it thinks you won’t notice.
Be careful, and watchful. Vigilance is the price of liberty, as well as your physical health, mental ability, wealth, etc. What you don’t notice, you never really had, right?
From: Twitter, @philo_quotes
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/d/davidhume382672.html
Photo by Miguel Pires da Rosa