Having recently read Slaughterhouse Five
, as I mentioned before, someone asked me recently if I believed humans truly had free will. My reply went like this:
The One and Only Philosophy on the Passage of Time
What path am I on? Where is it going? The Fates alone know, and I don't want them to tell me a word. Not for anything would I want to know what happens next. If there is one, ONE great blessing of humanity, that allows us to live in and experience each moment, it is the ability to predict the future, but erroneously. The fact that we may be wrong, that which we do not know, is the only comfort we have in this life. Lack of knowledge creates fear, yes, but it also creates hope. Since we do not know with certainty what will come to pass, we can only hope that it will be how we wish it. Without hope we are all doomed, listless, adrift. As modern westerners, most of us like to believe that we are in control of our own destinies. We have free will, we can make choices, and the future is not set. Our conscious, rational decisions will have an impact on the world. Others, in time and history, and some still today believe that true free will is a farce, an illusion, and that we only imagine that we have it. All of our choices, for as long as we shall live, are already made, have always been made, the predestination perspective asserts. To take it farther, some would suggest that time itself is a delusion of the human condition; that because we exist only in one moment of it, we believe the course of things to come is fluid. Time is dangerous as a concept, for its passage is not something we can ever experience; we can never -feel- the flowing past of years, never stop for a moment in time. We cannot sense it. Time is a religion.
Is the course of human history set, for all eternity? Do we have free will? These questions are posed by a plethora of philosophers as a dilemma, a sort of dialectic, as though it were something we could sort through. This is nonsense.
Would you do anything differently if you had free will, or if you did not? If you knew with certainty that you could never change what you had done in the past, and that you cannot effect what happens in your future, would you act any differently?
Some might believe that they would. "If I could not control their fate," you might argue, "I would not bother to -try,- to strive for anything, for it is all written down anyhow, right? Why bother to go to work today, if it will not change anything?" But thinking like this is folly.
You are going to work today, unless, of course, you are not. If free will does not exist, then whether you go to work today or not has already been laid down, and your conscious knowledge of your lack of control cannot influence it. You will go, if you go, and you will not go, if you do not. By its very definition, if you believe in predestination, you know you cannot change this.
And would you act differently if -YOU- were at the helm, if total and complete free will existed, and each person was the master of her their own fate? Well, then, you had better go to work, because if you do not, you may be fired, and you'd prefer to make money next week. Or perhaps, you will not go to work anyway, because you know you can call in sick and have it believed, and you will not be fired and you'll enjoy a day off in the sun. It IS such a nice day today.
But did you make that decision because you had free will? Did you have -control- over making your choice?
You have done what you have done, and that is the truth.
You will do tomorrow what you will do tomorrow, and that is the truth.
The "ability to make a different choice" does not exist, and it never does. You walk in time one foot before the other, and you make every choice once, and only once. You cannot go back and do it again. Since this is unarguably so, presuming you wish to interact in the field of human perception as we know it, then free will is irrelevant.
The only way to relevantly exercise free will, perhaps the real definition of it, is to -cause change.- YOU cannot change anything. To change is to undo, whereas you can only DO. There is absolutely no way to get one's hand into the middle of the ocean without first going through it.
You will do what you will do, and whether it is what you CHOOSE to do, or what has been CHOSEN for you to do, changes nothing. You will never know which of these the 'real' explanation is; there is no way to know. You will never see the plans for the future, if they exist, to know they are being carried out. You will never see with certainty what would happen if you chose differently.
Appreciate your hope. Hope, then, that the you will make the right choices, or that the best path has been prepared for you. They are the same.
Be, then, at peace with your place, and your role in time.
To "live in the moment," that often quoted and regularly abused concept, does not mean the abandonment of hope. It does not mean 'resignation.' Rather, it means appreciate this moment, that you are in it; take from it whatever you can. Rejoice, and be happy, be sad, laugh, cry, love, and everything else. You are human.
You cannot defeat the ocean, no matter how great your strength, no matter how resolute your will. Should you try to do so, anyhow, smile broadly as the waves crush you; appreciate the magnificence and be appropriately awestruck by its power. It is the only thing you CAN do.
For a human, for one who has only moments of time to live, like so many grains of sand, know that, for YOU, it will never get old. No moment will ever be the same. Each grain of your sand is similar to, but never exactly like, any other grain that has passed through your fingertips, and you can hold only one at a time. Do not lament for the ones that have dropped back into the sea; for as long as you live, there will always be another, and another. This is the truth.