May (1981) recognized two forms of freedom—freedom of doing and freedom of being. The first he called existential freedom; the latter, essential freedom.
Existential freedom should not be identified with existential philosophy. It is the freedom of action—the freedom of doing. Most middle-class adult Americans enjoy large measures of existential freedom. They are free to travel across state lines, to choose their associates, to vote for their representatives in government, and so on. On a more trivial scale, they are free to push their shopping carts through a supermarket and select from among thousands of items. Existential freedom, then, is the freedom to act on the choices that one makes.
Freedom to act, to move around does not ensure essential freedom: that is, freedom of behig. hi fact, existential freedom often makes essential freedom more difficult. For example, prisoners and imnates in concentration camps often speak enthusiastically of their "inner freedom," despite experiencing very limited existential freedom. Thus, physical confinement, or the denial of liberty seems to allow people to face then destiny and to gain then freedom of behig. In 1981, May (1981, p. 60) asked: "Do we get to essential freedom only when our everyday existence is interrupted?" May's own answer was "no." One need not be imprisoned to attain essential freedom, that is, freedom of being. Destiny itself is our prison—our concentration camp that
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allows us to be less concerned with freedom of doing and more concerned with essential freedom.
Does not the engaging of our destiny—which is the design of our life—hedge us about with the confinement, the sobriety, indeed, often the cruelty, which forces us to look beyond the limits of day-to-day action? Is not the inescapable fact of death . . . the concentration camp of us all? Is not the fact that life is a joy and a bondage at the same time enough to drive us to consider the deeper aspect of being? (May, 1981, p. 61)
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