The Ultimate Freedom

                                                            The Ultimate Freedom

                                                                 By  Paul Morantz

              “May his soul find peace,” the priest spoke softly, ending his sermon.

The relatives, friends, the contemporaries and the admirers of the late Mr. J.R. Cannon, slowly passed by the coffin to pay their last respects to this exalted man. Each paused momentarily to gaze upon his radiant dignity that shown through the cold stiff body of death. How tired he must have been, one thought. The lines rippled down his face. The wrinkles, the depths, all reflected the wisdom and the virtues that had characterized this honored being.

Perhaps, death was his reward, another thought. His relief from the agonies of the exertion, the search for a better world. The struggle had, indeed, taking years from his arduous life.

The long strains of white hair combed straight back along the sides of his head. The hairline of his forehead was indented and a small bald spot, surrounded by dark hairs, exited midway upon his scalp. Indeed, all had been caused by a malicious worry. His eyelids had been pulled shut, concealing the aged blue eyes that had spent laborious and strenuous years inquiring for new universal truths. The lips that once lectured on the goals and betterment of humanity are now silent and still.

The famous Mr. Wayne Hamilton paused for moment at the coffin. His head lowered, he sadly bid farewell. He whispered in a voice with no one else could hear, “You, my dear friend, have done more to enlighten mankind than any other philosopher or author of this modern era.”

Outside, a man boasted to his friend, “I had never met Mr. Cannon, but I was acquainted with his work. He made men ashamed to be ignorant.”

“So I have heard,” his friend remarked.

“Yes. I read his book, “The Purpose of Man,” another spoke. “In it, he portrayed man’s ignorance as a crime, an unfulfillment of his life. Man has duties to perform, according to Mr. Cannon. He thinks we should be happy and fill ourselves with experiences.”

“I read the book, too,” the first man added. “He thought society should create the conditions necessary and the proper atmosphere to promote the freedom of experience. He says since we only have one life, we should plan it with care. You know, you read that part about achievement as our only real reward.”

“Yes,” spoke the third man, “he says, though, that our greatest achievement is contribution to ourselves and to society. He thinks that man’s life, throughout entirety, should be centered on the desire for knowledge.”

“I remember his quote,” the first man interrupted, “Ignorance is a sin, intelligence is bliss.”

“Do you agree with him wholeheartedly,” his friend asked?

“I don’t know,” the first man answered, “I don’t know.”

In Current History Magazine a short biography of the mourned Mr. J.R. Cannon appeared. “Mr. Cannon graduated from the University of Wisconsin. He obtained a PhD in science, philosophy and history. He engaged in research and study of all fields, including even those of which a degree was not obtained. He became a professor at the University of Wisconsin and headed the research department. As a writer he wrote several books on philosophy and became syndicated in newspapers from coast to coast. He spent several years, traveling in Asia and Europe. Even abroad, he wrote his column for the newspapers. A Noble prize winner, Mr. J.R. Cannon has been hailed as one of the greatest minds of our time.”

In San Francisco, a reporter noted the irony of Mr. J.R. Cannon’s death. “It seems that there is no justice in this world. J.R.C. in his book, Man’s Original Sin, displayed religion as the original sin and as one of the leading correctors of mankind. He is quoted as saying, ‘It will be a better world when the last of the clergy is dead and buried.’ It is ironic to imagine the distaste and discomfort that Mr. Cannon would endure if he knew a priest was praying and presiding over his funeral. Furthermore, Mr. Cannon, in answer to the question how would you like to die, remarked, ‘slowly and awake. I am curious to feel death taking possession. For my last moment of life, I desire that last bit of knowledge, the sensation of death.’ Mr. J.R. Cannon, however will, died quietly and softly in the peacefulness of a deep night’s sleep.


Mr. J.R. Cannon awoke from an ultimate darkness. His eyelids slowly opened, permitting the reentry and ability to see the light and once again, a vision. A moment of eye squint, a pause and then a muttered, “What and where is this.”

His reborn eyes searched the surroundings with the same continuous curiosity of his normal life. To his senses he found himself lying on a white couch. His head perked up and rotated slowly, observing the four white walls that confined his spirit. Emptiness, almost a pure, soft emptiness, filled the room. Only exceptions were the presence of various puffs of white that glittered through the air. Mr. Cannon’s head turned to fix his vision upon the old strange man who sat behind a polished white desk. Mr. Cannon rubbed his eyes and stared mysteriously.

“You are in heaven, Mr. Cannon,” the old man replied with a faint smile.

Mr. Cannon studied with amazement the man who confronted him. He had curly white hair and thick white eyebrows hovering over a pair of extremely dark eyes. He was dressed in a single piece of white attire.

“Heaven,” Mr. Cannon asked? “I did not expect to be sent to heaven, nor did I believe that such a place exists.”

“But it does, Mr. Cannon,” the old man replied, as he sat with his hands folded. He seemed to sneer with laughter.

“I – – I have not been very religious,” Mr. Cannon stated. “I quit my church at the age of 13. How is it that I arrive here?”

The old man gleamed and then answered, “Man was put on earth to live Mr. Cannon. And we expect him to do so. We want him to work and contribute to the progress of mankind, not to spend his time obeying the institutions of stupidity. Do you think we are so egotistical that we demand religious rites and periodical worship?”

The scientific curiosity of Mr. J.R. Cannon had now taken full possession. He spoke, “You use the expression ‘we’. Is there not but one God? Tell me, what is the truth, what is its nature?”

The old man released a slight laugh and then spoke with amusement, “Such an odd request for one who is past his life. The others all ask of what will happen to them now and of the new world they will enter. You, Mr. Cannon, only ask of the past. Is it truth of our mortal world that alone interests you?”

“I want to know where I was wrong and where I was right,” Mr. Cannon answered. He sat fully erect now and was fully awaken.

“But it cannot help you now,” replied the old man. “What need of such knowledge could you possibly have? It can be put to no use.”

“Satisfaction is my need,” stated J.R… “I want to know which theory is correct or how far from being correct we were. Only then will I rest in ease.”

“Were they were wrong or were you were wrong, Mr. Cannon?” There was no reply and the old man continued, “No earthly dogma contains the truth, that I can tell you for a fact.” The old man made his statement with a snicker of superiority. Then he added with extreme enjoyment, “It is those that believe they know and that believe they are right that will suffer afterwards for their sins of stupidity.”

“Must they suffer,” Mr. Cannon asked? “It does not seem their fault. Their superstitions are part of the heritage that has been handed down from the past. And, after all, they believe they are helping humanity, even if, in reality, they are crippling it.”

“It is our new policy,” the old man answered. “Our patience has grown weary waiting for man to grow out of his crutches and stand erect on solid ground. Those of the past had an excuse, Mr. Cannon. Their world had not matured sufficiently. It had not the necessary supply of knowledge stored for its use. The people were plagued by fear, fear of the unknown and fear of death. They fell victim I to their ruling environment. This heritage should have been a museum piece, a relic, not a practice. For now, Mr. Cannon, the earth mortals have no excuse. They have reached great heights in science and the unknown is now largely the known; that is, what is possible to be known by these mortals has been discovered. Yet as the world has matured physically, the minds have remained retarded and now even danger the very existence of their world.”

“But they were in many ways right,” spoke Mr. Cannon. “After all, here I am in after life and in heaven.”

“You know little of where you are and what you are, Mr. Cannon,” replied the old man. “They were further from the truth, then you can imagine. What’s more, they have not the proof. The proof is the thing, Mr. Cannon. You should know that. They have no proof, only a feeling within they are correct to believe what is easier and best to believe. You almost cause confusion, Mr. Cannon. Something, I have not experienced in ages. Your own philosophy, your books have preached the same. But now you argue. You do not believe your own philosophy, your own words?”

“I don’t know,” Mr. Cannon replied, “I don’t know.”

A moment of silence passed. “You, Mr. Cannon, have spent most of your mortal life in search and promotion of honesty, truth and wisdom. You have strived to use these virtues to the best of your capabilities for the benefit and enlightenment of man. The council has granted you its highest reward, its ultimate freedom.”

“The ultimate freedom,” J.R. repeated with a look of puzzlement.

“Yes, Mr. Cannon, the ultimate freedom.” The old man smiled and chuckled as he spoke. “You are to have freedom from need or want.”

“Free from all want,” J.R. asked? “It is like a fairy tale.”

With a grin of almost evil delight, the old man said, “Yours is to be an eternity of ecstasy in which anything you desire is yours.”

All turned to quiet. Mr. Cannon sat exasperated and in deep thought. The old man sat, hands folded, waiting, anticipating from experience the next reply.

The vacuum of sound is broken in a stuttered question. “You mean my future here will be to do and have what I please.”

“Yes, Mr. Cannon, anything,” smiled the old man.

“There is only one thing that I crave, sighed Mr. Cannon in an abrupt, decisive, startling voice. A new look took hold of his features. He had full possession of himself and was quite recovered from the initial shock. “For the ultimate freedom, I desire the ultimate and final truth: the secret of the universe and the secret of the nature of man. I must know everything. I must know all in creation, all there is to know. For this is my need, my want.”

The humorous face of the old man ceased to smile. The whiteness showed a tint of red as he spoke in fiery words, “I feared this. You fool, Mr. Jerome Robert Cannon, have you no sanity. You are no longer part of your formal world. Do not take upon yourself possession of its miseries.”

“When I was a little boy,” Mr. Cannon spoke softly, “I wasn’t too strong. At least compared to my friends. I was sort of meek. My friends planned to be millionaires, athletes, and big business men. They laughed at me. They thought I was too weak to amount to anything. But I told them that I would laugh at them someday, that I would help humanity. I bragged that I would be the most intelligent man in the world.”

“You can no longer help humanity,” the old man said sternly, “and you can no longer be the most intelligent man in the world.”

“Yes, I know,” Mr. Cannon said with the sigh, “but the need still lingers on beneath me and it must be contented.”

“You almost sound like a mad, compensating fool.” The old man frowned and turned to look at the white walls as if summoning unknown help. The walls were clear pure white. The blend made the puffs of white almost invisible. What exists outside the white room would bewilder the imagination, he thought. Yet, this Mr. Cannon will not be satisfied with just this, he is too foolishly concerned with the knowledge that had escaped his departed life. But he is ripe.

The white robbed man turned, faced Mr. Cannon and spoke reluctantly, “I must warn you, Mr. Cannon, that there is extreme danger.”

“Yes, I know.” Mr. Cannon set almost laughingly, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

The old man sighed and rubbed his curly white hair with the palm of his right hand. “It will be the most colossal disappointment that is possible in all of this creation. Nothing in existence can match it.”

Forcing his humor, Mr. J.R. Cannon remarked, “The truth is always disappointing.” His hands began to move and he was getting tense with expectations.

“You have no conception of the pain, Mr. Cannon,” the old man related with a cast of seriousness.

Forcing his humor, Mr. Cannon replied, “Yes I know, the truth hurts.”

“Man,” the old man shouted, “Have you no fear of the horrors of truth.” His fist struck down hard upon the desk. Anger and pity of the coming filled the dark eyes of the knowing old man.

“In my past world– ”

“Our past world,” the old man corrected.

“Yes,” Mr. Cannon continued, acknowledging his error, “the people feared the truth.” Mr. Cannon spoke these words in stern seriousness that demonstrated his stubbornness. “They thought they could be happier believing what they wanted to believe. You, yourself, just gave a speech on the vices of mortal man. You despised their fear of the unknown, but now advise me to fear it. Well, I have no such fear and no such desire.” Mr. Cannon quivered now with impatience.

“Mr. Cannon,” the old man spoke in a begging tone, “I realize your noble intentions and indeed, they are noble. But please, let well enough suffice. For you and your own good, reconsider. You have no idea of the unknown terror that awaits you.”

“I don’t care,” cried out Mr. Cannon, “I must possess this knowledge.” His patience was now at an end. “I beseech you, for it is my only ambition, my only object of satisfaction.”

“And I must implore you, Mr. Cannon, won’t you change your mind before it is too late. This is heaven and you want what may be hell.” As he uttered his request, tears of sweat appeared and dropped from the forehead of this previous jolly old man.

“No” was the answer in a violent pitch expressing Mr. Cannon’s unwillingness to alter his decision.

“So it will be,” the old man replied with the frown of discouragement.

Mr. Cannon’s eyes became fixed in an eerie stare upon the old man’s hands that waved in wondrous motions. The white puffs seemed to vibrate and for moment Mr. Cannon’s head was filled with dizziness.

A yell of unholy terror, that sent the puffs of white into rippled acceleration, roared from Mr. Cannon’s frail and weary throat. Anguish and despair distorted the once brilliant face, as he cried and screamed in terror horror upon the birth of his new feature. He collapsed to the hard white floor and rolled about in immense and cruel pain. Sprawled out, his legs kicked and his hands pounded in fury. His right hand reached up and released his harnessing collar as he grasped for breath. Tears dripped down, stinging, upon his abused face.

“You poor boy, I had warned you.” The old man then continued his plea. “But now let me release you of your agony by removing your burden.” For the first time the old man had stood up from his seat; and now, walked over to the site of the squirming body.

Despite the incredible pain, the startling horror, the fright, the anguish and the screams of man tortured in a blazing red fire, Mr. Cannon muttered out from his clogged voice, “No, no… don’t, don’t take it from me. It is mine. At last, I have happiness; at last, I am in ecstasy.

The old man spoke his wisdom, “Would you rather suffer for eternity the knowledge you bear then exist in the simplicity and pleasure of ignorance?”

Mr. Cannon winced with the affliction. Then, despite his ordeal, he remarked strongly, “All of the pain and all of the suffering in all of the creation is a worthwhile price to pay for all of the knowledge and all of the truth of an unbelievable, but valid universe.”

The old man no longer argued. He knew Mr. Cannon was right, for he had made the same decision long ago. Soon, he thought, Mr. Cannon would learn to bear and live with the pain, the terrible, aging burden of truth. From this would grow an unheard of virtue and understanding.

There on the floor, Mr. Cannon continued to roll in his agony. The fright had turned his hair to a pure white.* His face and body aged. His eyebrows turned to a thick white. His every breath released a puff of white to fill the emptiness.

Yes, the old man knew that soon, Mr. Cannon, too, would snicker and smile at those, the ignorant, who wonder and question.