On Free Will, and Dating (successfully!)
On my third date with my now-wife, I might have accidentally broken someone’s faith in meaningful life.
Philosophy and free will came up somehow. That may seem weird as a casual conversation topic, but I believe I was taking a 200-level course on existentialism that semester. It may also seem weird as a date conversation topic, but I asked her out after we had a lengthy discussion of The Last Picture Showby Larry McMurtry (may he rest in peace), so this was really par for the course.
But for whatever reason, I explained a conclusion I had reached a couple years before.
“Free will is a myth,” I opined.
“Oh?” she said. Or maybe she just raised her eyebrows, I don’t know… this was 18 years ago.
“We make decisions based on our brain chemistry and experiences,” I explained. “The first is largely out of our control. The second would seem to be a guide toward making a choice. But the thing is, we develop experiences that shape our personalities long before we have any influence over our lives. When we’re babies, we’re already experiencing love, or hunger, or pain, or colors or water or whatever. We accumulate a lot of experiences in those first couple years that will guide our choices, but we have absolutely no say in any of it. That means that when we finally arein a position to make choices of some sort, and we draw upon our experiences and feelings to guide us, all of them have been predetermined. We feel like we’re choosing among possibilities; really, we make the inevitable choice based on the inputs provided to us. That determined choice itself becomes one of our experiences, and the ball just keeps rolling from there.”
“Huh,” she said, which really meant, “you’re a ridiculous nerd and you’re adorable.” (I think we were around two weeks from realizing and stating we were in love.)
“None of that really matters, though,” I said. “We’re all in the same position, and to function in our individual lives or in society, we can’t just throw up our hands and cry ‘determinism’; that would be pointless. We just make our choices, which all feel real enough, and we evaluate others’ choices too, even though they don’t have free will either. But we still need to determine who’s good, who’s bad, who should be our friend, so we do. Saying “free will is a myth” is a bit like dividing by one. Whatever crazy equation you’ve got, you can put it over one if you feel like it: the answer doesn’t change. It would be a pointless extra step, but you’re not technically wrong to do it. So yeah, it changes nothing, but free will is a myth.”
“WHAT?” said a voice from behind the dorm room’s divider. Her roommate appeared. I’d say she looked like I had kicked her dog, but I think she would have preferred me to have kicked her dog. “We don’t have free will? How does any of what we do matter!” There were tears. We spent some time talking her down.
And that was the last time I discussed anything vaguely philosophical without looking very carefully around the room.
And then I posted this story on the internet for strangers.
Epilogue: I later conducted a half-hour AOL Instant Messenger debate with that same roommate about whether it was better to have the sauce baked in your calzone or left separate for dipping.
Yep – I was a really cool college sophomore.
I Know Something You Don’t
Are you aware of how your tongue sits in your mouth?
Are you aware of that itch on the sole of your foot?
Are you aware of how your nose blocks part of your vision?
Are you aware of how your right hand has never touched your right elbow?
Are you aware that in your eagerness to obtain a certain age, you have forfeited all experiences up to this point?
Can you control what happens the next second? Space could collapse. The earth could explode. Physics could disentegrate.
And you have no power.
Over any of the topics I've mentioned
in art therapy
in a plea
and brain chemistry
do you watch and wait like i do?
at the edge,
where the world collides
with the cold sky~
is it never enough?
do you keep pouring
more and more
but come up empty?
it doesn't seem real,
but it hurts too much~
stings and scrapes and burns.
there's the urge to cry,
but no water or salt,
as halls are paced
and glass minds
The Opposite Day Paradox
If someone says it's opposite day, then wouldn't that mean it's not opposite day? Because if you say it's opposite day, then that would mean that it's not opposite day. But if it's not opposite day, then if you say it's opposite day, then it's not actually opposite day. But if it's not opposite day, then that means that when you say it's opposite day, then it is actually opposite. But if it is opposite day, then... and so on and so on.
Every morning I wake with a song in my head. Recently the old song ‘7’ by ‘Prince and the New Power Generation’ has been stuck in my head on replay for days. Like the high pitch ring of tinnitus, it plays softly in the background when I go about my day or listen to other music. Silence brings it forth with a renewed strength.
I am uncertain as to the meaning of this haunting but it feels powerful? I have never had a song play on my mind’s radio on a loop for this long. If you listen to the entire song you may notice that it seems like a prophecy steeped in religious connotations. Being agnostic, I feel less of a religious pull and more of an energy, a spirituality of sorts, linked to it. I would love for you to listen to it and tell me what your interpretation is.
Oddly enough, my sister (who lives on the other side of the continent) sent me a Marco a couple of days ago and said she’s had a lot of things surrounding the number seven lately. I hadn’t told her about my song yet...
“All seven and we’ll watch them fall
They stand in the way of love
And we will smoke them all
With an intellect
and a savior-faire
No one in the whole universe
Will ever compare
I am yours now and
you are mine
And together we’ll love through all
Space and time
so don’t cry
One day all seven will die...”
Listen to the whole song here:
I look around the room. Not just any room, a metaphorical room, or that is at least what I think. What do I know? Well quite frankly I know nothing; there is no way to be certain I do know anything. If I know that I know nothing, then I do in fact know something--that something being nothing.
What is purpose? What is us? Who are we? What is this room? Light or Darkness? Everything or Nothing? Beginning or Middle or End? Real or Fake? These are opposites. Balance. They are balanced, but how? How does the universe achieve this balance?
The universe is a flow of chaos, anarchy, and irregularities. Many people disagree with this because they claim things have an order such as: society, science, religion, and many other aspects of life--our life. This is a clear distinction. Humanity has found order in what we think we know. What we understand. Science yes, has an order, because we gave it one. Finding patterns and repetition is what us humans look for. This gives stability, routine, and order to our lives; something each human carves. Each human carves this sense of security. The fear of change. Humans are so scared of change that they even deny and argue that it is irrational to fear change, but within their own argument they prove how they are terrified of change. Why is this? Simple answer links back to humanity needs a rock, an anchor, stability. It needs this in order to feel secure and allows humanity to be at ease. People fear anarchy. They fear not having control and they fear what could happen if things radically change. Humans only know what they think they know at the moment. They are terrified of what they could find or learn that could change their reality and view of life. People are scared. This is why philosophy is pushed away to the back burner. Why people look down on philosophy thinking it is dumb and just question existence and other “truths” of reality. People do not like this. They do not like when someone finds something that causes change. It destroys the sense of security we have in what we “know.” People do not want someone to prove that we do not know they think we know, or prove that there is no god, or prove that science is not factual. This would shake the world. Shake each and every person. This would cause chaos. The knowledge that everything is chaos causes more chaos.
In the room. The room or is many rooms. How many rooms? What is room? How does one define the room? Can I be inside and outside of the room at the same time? What is time? How does one exist, to begin with? Is the room a thing or a person? What makes me a person and the room a thing? Am I truly a thing, because the room is a thing? If we assume science is correct then we are all made up of elements so we are all objects? How do we know the wall does not think? How do I know I am truly thinking? What is it that is a dream? How does one dream? How did I fall asleep and now am alive in another reality? Does that mean I am alive elsewhere? If so could there be two of me? Are there more of me? How do I know I am me? If I am not me, who am I? If I am not me, and he is not me, then who is me? How is me? How do I come to be? Is the room me? Am I the room? Can the room and I be the same? Is the room and I in two places at once? Are we both truly existing or are we not? If we are not, then what is not? What is nothingness? Is nothingness, something? Is something, nothingness or is it something else? Do I me or me am I? If one dies or dies not does one live another not life? If this not life is life, then is death not truly death? If death is sleep and sleep is not death, could death be being awake? Is this the dream and death the day? Could one die within dying and truly live? If Heaven is real then it is not death? Then death is not having a physical human body? Is the room in Heaven? If the room has a soul it is in Heaven?
Is Heaven just the chaos in true pureness? Heaven is the true balance and control; this control is through chaos. We cannot get to Heaven unless we give into pure chaos and give ourselves into the truest form of the universe--death.
Death is chaos. The universe is chaos. Dying allows us to be chaos; to be the universe. That is true peace. Peace through the pure chaos of the universe.
Before the Tempest
The wind was blowing hard
The whole house seemed to shift and creak
With each gust, the candle light flickered
Casting a ghostly glow that shadowed on
The faces of my brothers and sisters
I scoot closer to my mother and lay my head on her lap
As the dampness begins to fill our tiny house as if it
Threatened to drown us with each breath we took
My father boarding up our windows in preparation for the storm
As the drizzle began to hit our window panes
You could smell the sea, that smell that had been so refreshing
Seemed to be stuffy, sicking smell now
The gulls were quiet, you could hear the sea churning
As if it were mad and could no longer fit into it borders of the beach
Threatening to boil over and sweep our little house right off the cliffs
To be lost in the sea forever
I’m Really Not Taking This Challenge Seriously
(I'm really really really really really really really really really really really sorry.)
How many times have you heard the words, "Everything's going to be alright"? Sometimes with a pat on the shoulder, a hollow speech, and a camera you can’t see?
No matter you want to hear those words right? Want someone to hold you and speak grave words so casually they eventually become nothing but vowels pieced with consonants, sounds our vocal cords make through their vibrations, noise that the people of the past decided meant something, right? Wouldn’t you like that to be real?
But what do they mean, really?
Because how can you say that everything will be fine, if you don’t understand anything? How can you stand on shore, waving to someone drowning, telling them to “just breathe”? Ripping the eyes out of someone’s sockets, and tell them to appreciate how beautiful the world’s colours are? Drive a knife into someone’s throat, twist the veins around your steel blade, weaving a tapestry of your liking while they stare at you with cold, unmoving eyes until they choke to death?
What was the point, anyway?
You can lie to me all you want.
But nothing is alright, and nothing will be alright.
People live their entire lives on autopilot. Going about their routine lives, nothing more than obedient puppets. Tell me honestly, have you ever paused, gone into your head, and asked, “Hey, why am I doing this? Why am I even here? What’s the point of all this?”
We spend a quarter of our lives sitting in a classroom, and for what? So many, too many kids stew in frustration, resentment, hatred of the whirling fans and fluorescent lights and the white shirt they put on in front of the mirror every day.
Bullying and unfairness and injustice, a system of meaningless education but no morals.
Why are we judged for the way we look, something we can’t control? Why are we defined by the people around us, when we’re all here, for ourselves? Why is our world set in a way that what we have is never enough, and what we don’t is always better?
But the better question is, why do we exist? WHY DO WE LIVE?