I was chatting with a pal the other day and the topic of choices and free-will came up.
It’s generally true to say the more choices you have, the better choices you can make. Kind of stands to reason when you think about it, I guess.
But here’s the thing: even though we’re aware choices exist, we are, almost every one of us, unaware of just how many there are available to us.
And the chains binding us the tightest are the ones we don’t know we wear.
To give you an example from my own life; I work from home most days, and only really go out when I need to visit the clinic. So for me, the isolation is awesome, I crave it.
No morning commute, I can take my time, do things that I want to do, which to be honest is usually business related. No office politics, no boss breathing down my back, none of that shit.
And you know what people say to me?
They tell me how lucky I am to have such a fabulous lifestyle because my business allows me the time and the money to do pretty much anything I want to do, any time I want to do it).
But there are two things here I find puzzling.
The first is the notion it’s all down to luck. Sure, some of it undoubtedly is. Anything I had no control or influence over is functionally equivalent to luck.
So, yes, I was lucky to be born healthy with all my limbs, and everything in apparently good working order.
I was lucky to be born smarter than many and to have an upbringing and an education that somehow worked to turn out the boy who became the Joe you know and love.
But the other stuff?
The stuff I chose and still choose to do, like run my business the way I do and stay in my dressing gown if I deign to not get dressed, and work on building something I have a genuine passion about.
That’s all down to the choices I made.
Choices, choices, choices…
That’s just a simple example of one choice I made in my life others seem to think is down to some random process — luck. Like I just woke up one morning to find myself working from my laptop, running two businesses that require little real “work” on my part.
How lucky of me!
Go back a few thousand years and you’d be born into a tribe and there you’d die, unless you were taken captive and destined for a life of slavery. You’d likely not stray more than 10 miles from your place of birth, and have to fight for survival.
But the world isn’t like that any more. At least, not here in the West. You’re pretty much free to live where you like and do as you like — all it takes is a choice and then to take the actions necessary.
Thing is, this is just one example of a choice so many people seem to think isn’t a choice but is something foisted upon us by fate and circumstances. And there are dozens of others.
I know quite a number of people who are in terrible relationships. They’re miserable, unhappy and no longer in love with their spouses. Yet they still think they have no choice but to stick around.
But they do. They can up sticks and leave any time they like.
I know one guy who’s almost certainly gay but is living in terrified denial and destroying his life with drink, drugs, and other reckless and self-destructive behaviour (he’s currently on five bottles of vodka a day, up from a paltry three a few months ago, or so he claims.
Personally, I think he’s exaggerating, but whatever the true number is, it’s horrifying and he’s a wreck at just 38. Man, I remember him when he was a jacked — bodybuilding freak and in great shape).
Sure, change often means pain, but it’s doable.
No one can force you to remain in an unhappy relationship or a crap job. It’s all down to choice.
But the important thing to realise is all change begins from within and comes from the choices you make for yourself. Don’t waste your time trying to change others.
That’s the quick way to the loony bin.
Virtually everything in your life is a choice, other than the fact of your own demise.
Even then you can, if you wish, choose the time and the place because suicide is always an option, even if a poor one in my opinion).
Almost no one will ever change until the pain of making the change is less than the pain of not making the change. And the saddest thing to me is a sometimes this pain can be immense, drawn out, and entirely unnecessary.
There’s virtually nothing in your life you can’t change if you’re not happy with it. All the choices you need to make to create for yourself the life you want to live are right there in front of you.
All you have to do is make them.
PS. Two interesting observations about free will.
First… we don’t have it.
I know it feels like we do, and the only way to live and organise society is to act as if we have it.
But science, it seems, is telling us we don't (brain scans indicate our "choices" are made in the limbic system and post-rationalised in the cortex after we have committed to them.
Scary as fuck, and hard to believe, I know, but that's the fabulous thing about science: it's true whether you believe it or not).
Secondly… God, if he exists, doesn’t have free will, either.
See, you know God is apparently omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent?
Well that means he knows everything that's gonna happen from the beginning of time to the end.
So even though you've supposedly got Free Will, His omniscience means He knows exactly what you're gonna decide to do, and always has done.
And because He created you in the first place and His omnipotence means He has control over everything and always has done and always will do, it means whatever it is you decide to do He's made you do and knew all all along you were gonna do it anyway.
But that's just a slight digression from my main point.
... God doesn't have Free Will.
Because in any given situation He not only knows the perfect course of action, but He's always known it because that's the way He planned it.
In other words…
... God is utterly powerless to change anything (arguably, so are you if He's planned it all in advance, but at least we live in blissful ignorance of that).
It's pretty scary to be inside my head I tell ya.
Best stick to more earthly pursuits while you still can, I reckon.