I’ve been thinking about free will recently (well actually for a year or two) and how on a larger scale, I feel that free will doesn’t exist. For example, on a small scale, I can decide to go over there, I can decide to pick up that object. But if we think on a larger scale how other people and the world around us affect and guide our actions, I feel there is limited control; a lack of free will. I’ve had people enter and exit my life, and after a certain amount of time I suddenly find myself looking back and wondering how I got where I am now. How did I become the way I am now? Am I happy with who I am now? It might be that your response to that question is negative, as though it was something you didn’t ask for, an involuntary involvement in an epoch or situation. I’d like to stress that I don’t mean involuntary in the submissive sense, and I’m not offloading responsibility, or even wishing events didn’t happen. I’m just drawing attention to what levels of power we think we have in our lives. And this will undoubtedly differ from person to person. It just feels as though people and the world around us have a huge impact on our physical and spiritual destinations. In which case, if we think of free will like that, there isn’t much of it.
It’s important also to take into consideration upbringing and genetics. I read in Malcom Gladwell’s book ‘Tipping Point’ that the makeup of our character is 50% genetics and 50% upbringing. I think in this case, that’s an interesting statistic to parallel with this philosophy. Already as children and adolescents, we have a lack of free will, we’re brought up confined to certain mental and physical parameters. But this kind of free will is different to what I’m proposing, though I think this statistic is the foundation of who we are.
I suppose it’s about manifesting what you want and making that a reality, as opposed to floating through life and letting everything exterior to you guide you (Which, from my perspective is actually rather attractive and romantic). And again I don’t mean that in a submissive sense, I mean it in a natural sense; allowing life to escort you. But, on the other hand, I have found myself in situations that I later realised I didn’t want to be in. I think back and find I can trace this snowballing of events back to a certain point. It’s like a butterfly effect (Chaos theory). Here is a little excerpt from Wikipedia on the chaos theory ‘For example, a ball placed at the crest of a hill may roll into any surrounding valley depending on, among other things, slight differences in its initial position.’ So, going back to what I mentioned earlier, perhaps it’s about manifesting what you want. If we think of ourselves as that ball, can we change our location, creating a better starting point for an optimum outcome?
Thinking of free will in this way, I feel, makes it seem like there is a lack of it. If we actually have to make these minor changes just so we can have a more optimistic probable, yet random outcome. It’s kind of desperate isn’t it? Like we’re clutching at straws.
I’m not saying this is the reality, I’m simply posing it as a philosophy. There’s masses of grey area between what I say.
I think as humans, as individuals and as a collective, we want control and power. And I don’t mean power in a malicious ‘power tripping’ way. Perhaps this is due to the lack of power we feel from life? I’ve met many people in life where it ‘looks’ like they’re desperately trying to balance themselves. Clinging onto vestiges of positivity and hope. Trying everything in their power to try and control their emotions and lives. When, the power around them is too strong. And I’ve thought to myself, ‘just give in!’ ‘let go!’. We’re like catastrophes, moving through life, catastrophising other people’s lives…. But… it’s beautiful.
I’d like to stress that I am just philosophising, I don’t live by these notions, but I have to admit, it’s not progressive thought.
Elaborating on this idea of power and control, it brings to me notions of anarchy; what if everyone in the world did let go and didn’t take measures to center themselves thus allowing life to escort them emotionally, spiritually and physically. What would become of the world? Personally, I imagine anarchy, because to me, the connotations of anarchy are power and control. Perhaps we do need to strive to control ourselves, because, the world and the people around us are extremely powerful forces. Perhaps meditation, yoga and all these practices are pertinent and useful responses to the pressures and external powers that seem to overbear us in life. Talking from a personal perspective, my emotions have often gotten the better of me, and I’ve often shied away from taking measures to regulate myself to a larger extent because I lived by a philosophy whereby I wanted to be controlled by my emotions. But, I’ve realised that, often, the emotions that I feel, aren’t true to who I am.
I think though, that emotional control can be taken too far. I was watching some videos of Buddhists talking about their practice recently and the man talking had literally controlled his emotions so much that he appeared to have none. To me, that goes against nature and life itself. Somewhat counterintuitive to the practices ethics. Paradoxically, they’ve become submissive people by not being submissive to their emotions. We are human, emotions are a part of us, they should be cherished and listened to, not completely obliterated. I think the complete suppression and attempted negation of emotions, for me, is a sad state of affairs. I do think it’s important to have a balance though of controlling your emotions but also feeling them and allowing them.
In the past I have completely shunned anything to do with spirituality, mainly due to the religious and ‘other worldly’ connotations it has. But I think the word is broader than I initially thought. Here is a good description of that… ‘‘Spiritual awakening refers to a shift in consciousness, an apperception of reality which had been previously unrealized. The culmination of such realizations is in the recognition of oneness with all of existence.’
‘Oneness with all existence’ = Referring back to what I was saying earlier about the powers around us being debilitating/over powering, I think this idea of oneness with existence is a pertinent idea to what is being discussed.
It’s about being conscious and controlling your life.
Perhaps I have been too submissive to life?
At this point in my life I do want to control my emotions, I’m sick of being a passenger.
I’d like to end with this poem by Charles Bukowski (Written poem and a composition by myself). Please feel free to discuss constructively below.
your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight