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Monday, January 25, 2010

Free Will

I had the opportunity recently to discuss free will and fate with a couple of friends. I confessed that the older I get, the more difficult it is for me to imagine that our will is truly free in the sense that we believe it is. The desires that we act on are not truly our own. We had no choice in acquiring them, they come stock with our hardware. What few choices we do have are also governed by the environment in which we find ourselves born. You aren't going to find any presidents born in the ghetto.

We choose, yes, to sink or swim in the muck we've become accustomed to. We can choose to escape, to stay, to do or not to do, but the dichotomy is always between one or the other thing. Seldom do we find ourselves with a multitude of choices and when we do, don't we mostly become overwhelmed by them, and try to narrow them down?

We do choose, but only from what we know. Most of what we choose is from yesterday's pre-conditioned responses, and is reacting the same a choosing? Is repeating out of habit still a choice?

The problem with the notion of choice is that it subsumes everything underneath it. Choosing not to choose is itself a choice, according to the free will folks, and it is here I am reminded of Frost pondering two roads and taking the less beaten of the two paths, not because he wanted to grow up to be a poet, but rather because he wanted to take a path that less people had traveled. He wanted to stand out, to be special, to be one of the few.

I once lived in a great wide womb where all my desires were accounted for and I wanted nothing. It was then that I realized that I was dying for a lack of this desire. That I needed the banana to be just out of reach so I had the motivation to do what had to be done to get it. And that has been the greatest and most difficult choice of my life: escaping my desire to get everything I want.

“When all of your wishes are granted,
many of your dreams will be destroyed.”
-Marilyn Manson

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