Ancient Greek mathematician and philosopher, Pythagoras, (born in 570 B.C.) found out an interesting fact about triangles. If a triangle has a right angle (90 degrees) and you make a square on each of the three sides, the biggest square will have the very same area as the other two sides put together. This is called The Pythagorean Theorem. You probably learned about it in high school geometry.
If you have ever seen the movie, The Wizard Of Oz, you may remember that when the Scarecrow receives his diploma from the Wizard, he immediately shows off his by reciting a messed up version of The Pythagorean Theorem. The Scarecrow excitedly states: “The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side. Oh, joy! Oh, rapture! I’ve got a brain!”
However, the Scarecrow is wrong. The correct way to state the theorem is: “The sum of the squares of the legs of a right triangle is equal to the square of the remaining side.” The Scarecrow is a great example of how we can pride ourselves in our knowledge, even when what we know is incorrect.
Perhaps we need to reexamine some of the things that we think we know. For example, we think that we know that we are free. However, another Pythagorean Theorem gives us fresh insight into the idea of personal freedom.
A quote from Pythagoras : “No man is free who cannot command himself.” In other words, if we are in caught up in habits, cravings, genetic tendencies, and/or compulsions and cannot command ourself to stop them, then we are not really free.
Now, bondage to desire is not just an ancient problem. Henry Miller, Twentieth Century American novelist and painter, is quoted as saying: “Man has demonstrated that he is master of everything — except his own nature.”
Maybe it is time that we focus our efforts for freedom on our personal lack of self-control. Perhaps we should pay attention to this quotation from Johannes Tauler who said: “You have within you many strong and cruel enemies to overcome.”