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May 21, 2012 | by  | in Features |
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Freedom or Freedoom?

Did you pick up a Salient today of your own choice, or did you feel an invisible string guide you hand to do it? Here’s a question to ask yourself next time you pick up anything, be it a flyer, a five dollar note or a looker in a bar: “Why did this happen to me?”

Depending on personal philosophy, we either think that we live in a world where everything we do is due to our choice of actions, a universe founded on the concept of ‘free will’, or that there is a grand plan to your life and you just play your part in it, a universe founded in ‘fatalism’.

In the former case, everything we choose to do in this world comes down to us. We impose our own limits or set out to break ones set by others; you are all captains of your own ships, sailing on the ever- turbulent sea of chance. In the end, it’s your choice.

In the latter, the rules are not only set, but so is the game plan, and there is no deviation from it. Whatever force dictates it, be it gravity, God or the Adjustment Bureau, we cannot do anything to change ‘the plan’. Even if you try to stick it to the big man upstairs and deviate, it’s already been accounted for. A few threads may come off the tapestry of fate now and then, but it’s still a whole rug.

Both are appealing concepts in their own right, and they provide a degree of mental security depending on how you see your world. But there is a problem with this dichotomy. When you think about them both, each one is actually self-defeating.

In a world based in fatalism, if you believe that all actions are predetermined, you have no future. Everything in your life is already determined for you. You cannot contradict anything because your story is set in stone. Moreover, how would you feel if you knew this was the case, like Dr Manhattan, able to perceive your entire life all at once? What would be the point in living if you knew that your life had already been lived for you? No wonder the good doctor turned into a cyan cynic.

So is the world of free will and chance any better? Not necessarily. If you believe chance rules the world, there would be no pattern or order to anything. This completely undercuts our rational beliefs in science and observation. This world follows Einstein’s definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, except we know that there will always be a different result. Sure, the apple fell to the earth this time, but who’s to say it won’t just float away the next time you let go of it? Taken to logical (or illogical) extremes, it’s a universe of absurdity and blind chance, where the only thing you can know is that nothing is true.

In short, too much freedom is scary and too little freedom is depressing. Either one on a cosmic scale is even worse. So I propose a compromise for the sake of practicality (and sanity). It can be said with certainty that every event in life originates from something. I surmise that that “something” is changeable. Not a pattern that is fixed, but a pattern that distorts with you, like the omnipresent blot on Rorschach’s mask (another trip to the Watchmen well…). The black blot morphs with his facial expressions inside the mask, but how it manifests pattern-wise on the outside varies.

With some events, you feel as if you chose to make them happen, while others feel as if they were destined to have happened to you. You decide whether to ask your crush out on a date, but fate decides if they say yes and you stay together. The universe is the “house”, setting the rules and shuffling the cards, but you play the hand you’re dealt.

And whether you believe any of this or not is entirely up to you. Or is it?

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