Man has a physical structure similar to other living creatures on earth such as plants and animals. He is a terribly complex being, the apex of the process of evolution. He is subject to pain and diseases and at the same time able to seek and enjoy comfort and convenience. The body becomes the source of needs, desires and urges that motivate him and make a demand on him. The five senses of his body become the means by which he experiences the world and the vehicle for his own expression.
Man is capable of conceptual thought, which distinguishes him from other creatures on earth. His mind has the power to stand out of himself and become the object of his own reflections. The power of his mind has enabled man to become the object of his own reflections. The power of his mind has enabled man to become reoccupied not only with the nurturance and sustenance of his body but with the more creative activities that demand thinking and conceptualizing as well.
A person may emphasize the cognitive and approach life as an intellectual matter that provides reasons for everything. This can be frustrating for there will be times when the heart has reasons which reason does not know. However, one who approaches life with so much emphasis on feelings stands the frustrations of being hurt so often. Also, who emphasizes action can get into trouble for certain actions that do not have a rational basis. This happens when actions do not pass through the process of conceptual thought.
Man likewise experiences the presence of a spirit in him. It is the spirit that animates his whole existence and gives meaning to his activities. His spirit tries to grasp a reality that is not palpable to the body. His spirit expresses itself through his body. His spirit is capable of hoping when the mind is frustrated; believing when the mind dounts; loving when the mind would rather hate. Take away mans spirit and he is dead figuratively or literally.
We see persons differing from one another though possessing certain common traits. An individual possesses certain capacities, potentialities and limitations. The coincidence of these qualities in a person in a way that is different from the rest of mankind is what makes him unique. Every man is a new beginning, the realization of a past hope, the joy of the present and the promise of an abundant future. His uniqueness is what makes him important and indispensable. It is his uniqueness that makes him valuable.
At the same time, a person is a being existing in relationship with other beings. His relationship with others accentuates his uniqueness and significance. He meets his needs as a child through the help of others. He grows in the very expression of himself with the help of others. He needs others to deepen and broaden his persectives. He is able to restructure society only in cooperation with others. His personality is affected by his relationship with others.
Every created thing has a purpose for being. A glass is made for drinking. The plants and trees exist to provide nourishment, shade, beauty and ecological balance. What then, is man’s purpose for being? What is his reason for existence?
Man acquires a purpose for his existence by continually creating, liberating and realizing himself and his environment. Eventually, his purpose acquires a sense of mission as he engages himself with other men in the cooperative task of continuing the work of creation to make life more meaningful, to purify life of what vitiates it and to bring life to its realization. This mission in life becomes the continuous task of creating opportunities that will enable persons to have more, know more and be more liberating persons from structures that inhibit their fullest development as persons, and of the constant transformation of social structures that will enable persons to realize their potentialities to the fullest.
It is when man lives this three-fold mission of creating, liberating and realizing that life becomes impregnated with meaning. It is man purpose in life that creates history. He has the capacity to learn from the past experiences, plan and make the resent viable for the strong thrust towards the future that he wants to forge.
Man likes to think of himself as being born free. We even sing a song celebrating man’s freedom. Freedom to be or not to be is one of our basic human rights. It is God-given right, a right to be respected by man and treated as sacred because it comes from God.
Man has certain “givens” that confines him. He is born of a certain time and place, race, color, parentage and physical make-up that he had no choice about. The acceptance and appreciation of the “givens” is of itself a freedom.
As a social being, man experiences limitations of his freedom. He is free to bring his potentialities to their fullest realization. However, he is free only in so far as his exercise of freedom does not encroach on another’s freedom. The economic and political situations in his particular milieu impose certain un-freedom on him. He experiences a further limitation of his freedom by the norms, values and mores of his culture. His engagement in the process of restructuring the norms, values and mores of his culture to render it more potent in developing person is of itself an act of freedom.
In freedom, a person accepts and appreciates all the given’s of life. His happiness depends partly on his exercise of freedom. Life offers him an abundance of opportunities. These are availed of through his exercise of freedom. Some opportunities may not be availed of due to some “givens” of life and the very choices that a person makes. One choice may pave the way for other opportunities or exclude other opportunities that are equally as good. A person will do well then to ask himself just what he wants out of life. It is a question that is asked, not just once but many, many times in one’s lifetime. It is a question one may use to assess what has gone before in one’s life as well as what possibilities one will open oneself to in the future. It is a question that gives direction to one’s life. A person who makes his choice within the limits of his potentials is able to experience the happiness of realizing his dreams, his expectations of life. On the other hand, the person whose choices are beyond what his potentials can sustain will experience the disappointment of frustrated dreams and aspirations. But what are the limits of one’s potentials? Even those limits will have to be tested in freedom.
While freedom gives man the right of choice, he, as a social being, has the obligation to make his exercise of freedom responsible. A person is responsible whenever he is able to answer for his choices and the consequences of such choices. He is responsible when he is able to accept the limitations of his freedom. He is responsible when he is able to respond to others’ exercise of freedom.