Free Will

More message board stuff.  I kind of made this up as I went.


How I've come to view free will (keep in mind the specifics are still developing in my head):

me, free will has nothing to do with what choice you eventually make.
Determinism doesn't harm the dignity of a person. You are ultimately
going to make the choice that is determined by who you are and what
you're presented with, and that is a good thing. Otherwise, your choices
wouldn't make sense!

You can always look back and try to think
about what your motives were for a certain action, and there are always
motives. You never do anything without reasons, even if you don't take
the time to make a mental list of what those reasons are before you do
the action.

So I'm not going to focus on *what* decision you
make, but the conditions under which you make it. Having more than one
option isn't what makes us *feel* free. What if someone is holding you
at gunpoint and you can choose between telling them vital information
or allowing yourself to die? Does that seem like a free decision? You
*do* have more than one option, right?

I think that simple
example is enough to show that our freedom is not based on the options,
but based on the conditions. As such, I drew up a little continuum of
free will, where the left represents no free will, and gets
progressively more and more free as you travel to the right.

<–restraint/force—-marketing—-egocentricity—-authenticity—-harmony with God/the universe–>

on the left, you have examples like the one I gave above. Where some
outside force is forcing you to do something. The decision of whether
you do what they say is still up to you, but the presence of the
coercive force alters the situation quite a bit and makes you feel
bound, regardless of how metaphysically free/not free you are.

on the scale we have marketing and consumerism. The whole art of
creating needs in the people rather than trying to fill pre-existing
ones. They've done quite a number on us. People think that their
identity is tied to what clothes they wear and how they decorate their
houses. Men and women are convinced that the only way for a man to show
his love is to buy the girl jewelry. We think that our monthly income
and what we're able to buy is what determines our worth…and if not
that…then how we look. Such a way of living life and making decisions
is definitely not free or genuine in any respect.

Now we come to
the ego. This is possibly one of the harder concepts to understand, but
we've all felt it at some point. Most of us have felt at some point
that our actions weren't really coming from ourselves. Perhaps our
emotions seemed to cloud our judgment, or we just got trapped in the
heat of the moment. Or it can be even more subtle…as it is a
continuum. Perhaps you listen to Switchfoot's This is Your Life,
and you feel saddened. Maybe you *aren't* who you want to be. Maybe you
chose a job that keeps you dead inside, and you long for something
more. Maybe you're just going through the motions. Maybe you're
avoiding really looking at yourself and who you are. Whatever it is, it
keeps you from acting out of your genuine self, and in that sense, you
aren't all that free.

If that's true, then the next step is
obviously when you act out of who you are deep inside. The times when
the whole of your energy and passion light you up and threaten to set
you on fire. Your heart feels like it's about to explode and you're
just so *present* to the moment. The decision seems clear, even if it
means consequences that you don't really like. Our actions, when they
stem from our deepest self, are motivated by love, devotion, and self
sacrifice. It's as if everything inside you is screaming at you to make
the decision, and you can't help but do it. Notice that here, there
really *is* only once choice that you can make, but it feels
exponentially more free that the first time, when you had more than one

But most of us don't live like that all of the time.
Usually we just catch glimpses of that feeling here and there. But if
we work at it, and keep ourselves aware and open, we eventually can
come to the last stage. This one is more of an ideal than anything
else. Imagine that you are genuinely yourself at all times. At some
point, making decisions comes as naturally and as freely as breathing.
You don't need to control yourself, you just act. You don't need to
limit yourself, you don't need to think about morality or law because
at this point, whatever you naturally do is in complete harmony with
the universe and with God's will. You're acting out of a place that is
so rooted in unity, in God, in the entire natural order that you just
become part of it. You join the dance, and dance spontaneously and
beautifully in the complete and utter oneness of everything. Nothing
can harm you, at least mentally and spiritually, because you know that
every move is part of that dance, and that the dance itself is
beautiful. Every action is pure joy.

Most people live
somewhere between the marketing phase and the ego phase. When I look at
the general population, it just saddens me, because so many people are
caught up in this, and are unknowingly slaves to consumerism and their
own egos. Those who have just broken free tend to look back and hate
the system, and show quite a bit of contempt for the people still
chained to the wall. But I can't feel anything other than sadness and
compassion for them. It makes me want to spend my life working to help
them, to break their bonds and help them become the people they really
are inside.

Reply from subtle seem the stars:

"I'm not sure how i feel about the possibility of interfering (i can see
the appeal/compassion from the high level person's point of view, but
not really vice-versa especially if the person is not feeling
miserable/desiring of any more), but i just thought the example was
relevant to the idea of looking back from the more advanced phases onto
those in the lower ones."

Yeah you can't just interfere
and tell someone they are miserable and can't see it. You have to kind
of taunt them out of their mindset slowly but surely. You have to find
a way to get them to look inwardly without insinuating that they
currently suck. Basically, you have to write songs like Jon.

other thing that is worth pointing out is that you *can't* progress on
your own. Like you said, people who aren't feeling miserable and who
don't desire anything more won't budge, they'll just continue being
what they think is happy. Something has to happen that comes from
outside of you that makes you realize what is going on. And it's not
necessarily an easy process. It can be downright painful, even.

that way I don't really want to think of the more free person as
"higher" than someone else. In a sense, they are actually lower. They
didn't do it themselves, and they only got to where they were by grace
of a number of falls. The other people are just the same as they are,
but they haven't had the fortune to have suffered enough to break down
the walls that surround their heart.

So for me, when I look at a
close friend, or anyone really, who's having a really tough time…half
of me is drenched in compassion (co-feeling), and the other half of me
is shouting for joy. Because every glimpse of pain is an opportunity to
move deeper…it's up to us if we decide to take it or not.

far as how I interfere…I don't really. Most of the time is just spent
being patient, letting them work things through on their own…but
being there as a guiding voice to try to get them to think in such a
way as to help them open up, rather than close themselves off and
rebind themselves again. Life does the work for me…I just try to
guide them in the right direction when the going gets tough.

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  1. Lots of good thoughts again. :)I think people can mean two different things when they talk about free will. The first is enslavement to one's culture and immediate passions with the resulting psychic blindness. Any internal contradictions between ones own deep emotional being and one's enculturation will set up a depression to some degree. I am continually amazed by the insights and wisdom of those who have suffered some because they have explored some of those internal contradictions.The other discussion of free will revolves around determinism. An all knowing God is supposed to know the future in exact detail. Yet the very existence of a infinitely divisible continuum for space and time is one factor that shows such exact knowing of the future is impossible. This whole concept is the basis of chaos theory. The other factor is the uncertainty inherent in un-clocked information processing systems as described by quantum mechanics.

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    • November 15th, 2007

    Great thoughts here!! I liked your continuum and agree that most people are caught between the marketing and ego phase. When you start to move out of that ego phase, it can be very confusing because the ego still wants to grab hold and I think that can happen in several ways. One, as you mention, is the contempt for the people who are still stuck in the mindset you have left behind. But another (which you touch on in your response to subtlearethestars) is more subtle – the attachment to helping people. So that has to be navigated with caution. We can't really help people – that's something they have to do for themselves. All we can really do is be present for them. ("Be there").I just read an interesting example yesterday in Death by Suburb by David Goetz. He gave the example of his volunteer work as a mentor to a prison inmate. Goetz motivation was a vision of how his help would turn the inmate's life around. Goetz had dreams he'd help the inmate get out of prison and help him find a job which would allow him to buy a house in the same neighborhood and he'd one day get to see this man and his son walking down the street hand in hand. Goetz mentored the guy for over a year and all seemed great. He got out of prison and Goetz receives a call from this guy asking him if he knows a lawyer. That made Goetz angry. This guy didn't do what it was he was he was supposed to do according to Goetz's plans and therefore, Goetz considered his efforts a waste of time. It took him a while to realize that what he was offering wasn't his help, he was making demands of the inmate to stroke his own ego. That was about taking, not giving. While making the attempt to help others is always a good thing to do, the real gift is simply our presence, unattached to a desired outcome.

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    • November 15th, 2007

    Just to clarify, Goetz's inmate needed a lawyer because he had gotten arrested again.

  2. Yep, I use the Chaos Theory example all the time when discussing this particular philosophical problem. My goal was to try to say that this type is more important that the standard definition in the minds of normal everyday people (which doesn't usually have anything to do with unpredictability, but in the ability to actually enact two different actions). :)Thanks for the added thoughts!

  3. Awesome example! I might just have to use that at some point. 🙂

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