A few weeks ago I was listening to a shiur from the Nshei Library. This particular speaker was affiliated with the Karlin-Stolin community. One of the messages from the shiur which stuck with me was this:
The attitude of “I can do whatever I want” is the epitome of slavery.
I don’t remember the breakdown, but my unauthorized explanation is that a person can be a slave to his or her desires and whims if there are no parameters to provide guidelines. Rather than having a clear cut idea of what is and is not acceptable (or a good idea), and then behaving within those parameters, a person could easily be lost down the rabbit hole of feeling-good and wanting-this.
Not that a person can’t feel good or satisfy wants, but without the proper guidelines (ahem, Torah) to help a person understand what will really feel good (as opposed to transitory and cheap pleasure) or what is a real want (as opposed to what society/media/yetzer hara dictates), a person could spend his or her life slaving away to find elusive happiness and satisfaction.
It reminds me a little of how I felt after graduating university. I had my degree and a world of possibilities. Start a career; pursue higher degrees; travel the world; commit a year or two to a good cause, etc. It felt absolutely paralyzing. The amount of choices laid out before me, without any parameters to streamline my decision-making, was overwhelming. Like a slave, I was confined.
After I became frum, I found real guidelines which helped narrow the choosing field. Instead of being frustrated that I wouldn’t be able to pursue a deep-sea-diving lifestyle, or become a performer in Nashville, I was relieved to find that I could make choices which were, all in all, more satisfying and less ambiguous, and that I wasn’t constantly running after the next goal which may or may not provide happiness.