(First published in April 2009)

I remember this nice discussion I had with my nephew a few years ago. We were talking about freedom, and he said that there is freedom from, and then there is freedom to.

He did not care to expound because the point was so obvious. If a person chooses not to work, he has freedom from a boss, from working hours, and from job responsibilities. But unless he is living on inheritance or won the lotto, he may not have much freedom to do certain things, particularly those that cost money.

Suffice it to say there is no such thing as absolute freedom in this world. It’s always a compromise, because freedom is a double-edged sword. Freedom from, freedom to.

This duplicity struck me because it seems that some (most? all?) of the important things in life are wrapped in a paradox. Like distance and passion, for example.

Some say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, while for others it’s out of sight, out of mind. Which do you believe? For me, I go with François de La Rochefoucauld: Absence diminishes minor passions and inflames great ones, as the wind douses a candle and fans a fire.

I am tempted to comment on those great words but I figure that I would just be diminishing the beauty of those lines. So allow me to move on to the next duplicity I can think of. Ah! How about work.

For some people, two heads are better than one and many hands make light work. For others, it’s if you want something done right, do it yourself, and too many cooks spoil the broth.

Ah! The control freaks and the “delegators”. The specialists and the managers. I guess most people are a combination of both up to certain proportions, and a dominant side will surface depending on the task at hand. For those tasks that require timeliness and quantity of work done, I guess a manager would be more effective than a specialist, while for those tasks that prioritize on quality and perfection, a specialist would probably do better.

And then there are the control freaks. Oops, before I offend any of my readers especially those who have obsessive-compulsive personalities, I’d like to think about yet another duplicity. Hmmm…how about risk.

Some people tell you to look before you leap and that it’s better to be safe than sorry, while others say that he who hesitates is lost and nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Again, I would say that maybe most people switch between adventure and safety depending on the risks involved.

I remember this risk management seminar I took more than a decade ago. It taught that risk has two dimensions: probability and magnitude. So in a four-quadrant matrix, risks are roughly classified as low-probability/low-magnitude (there’s a 5% chance that you’ll lose P5,000), high-probability/low-magnitude (there’s a 95% chance that you’ll lose P5,000), low-probability/high-magnitude (there’s a 5% chance that you’ll lose P100,000), and high-probability/high magnitude (there’s a 95% chance that you’ll lose P100,000).

On low-probability/low-magnitude risks, I guess most people would leap without hesitating, but as probability and especially magnitude increase, people tend to become more prudent. Or do they? As my mom often sings, Oh, when will they ever learn? Oh, when will they…ever learn?

But the greatest duplicity of them all, at least for me, has something to do with how people view life. For some it’s black and white, like a chessboard. For others, it’s seamless shades of gray, not unlike a palette.

And that, my friends, I believe, is one of the reasons why some people always disagree.

Happy Easter! innerminds inner minds


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Attempts at uncovering the underlying simplicity beneath apparently complex concepts as well as the core complexity within seemingly straightforward issues


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