Sunday, December 22, 2013

Fate, free will and all that jazz

Okay, so I know I haven’t written in a while. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, mind. But between the business of life, illness, and family obligations, writing somehow fell by the wayside—which is sad, when you consider it is one of my greatest joys in this world.

So, why return to writing now? Well, I was very gently nudged by a sweet friend and I couldn’t say no—especially since it’s Christmas, and she expressed the sentiment that my writing something would be a gift.

She probably sensed that my muse was on a long holiday, so she prompted me to write about a particular topic. Even as I write this bit right here, right now, I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to say.
So, there it is. For better or worse, here it goes.

The topic given to me was life. It’s a pretty broad topic, isn’t it? There’s so much to say about it—what can you say about it? It just sort So, in her infinite wisdom, my friend narrowed the subject further by asking me to expand upon how fate and freewill affect life.

Basically, I believe in both. But that sounds both contradictory and stupid, so I’ll have to explain.

My beliefs are a mixture of a thousand different faiths—some I’m pretty sure I’ve made up myself—science, and the philosophy of others who’ve lived before me. (I’ll always believe the past holds the key to the future.) So, when I say that you can have both fate and freewill, I’m very, very sure of it, partly down to my view on existence itself.

To me, the universe might as well be infinite, for there is so much we don’t know about it, and there will always be new things to discover every microsecond of every tiny Earth day. So, you have this universe and it’s in flux and it’s ever-changing.

Then, I believe, there is a higher power. Whatever you call this power doesn’t matter. You could call the power God, Vishnu, Allah, really doesn’t matter. In the Bible, God refers to God’s self as “I Am That I Am”. Now, before you freak out and go, “OMG, she’s getting religious and attempting to indoctrinate me”—I’m not. Not in the least. Rather, I want you to think about the infiniteness of that name, “I Am That I Am”, and how it applies to the universe, a higher power (if you believe in one), the world and even you yourself. “I Am That I Am” means that I Am is infinity itself. There is no beginning, no end, no gender and, most importantly, no limitations. That is what “I Am That I Am” means. God is all. The beginning, the end—and everything in between. To me, God is the universe, God is in you, and me—and in my personal belief, God existed before any of this and created it all, so the laws of nature don’t really apply for one outside of all this nonsense.

I believe what many Christians call God the Father is a creator, an ouroboros that exists outside the normal laws of our universe. I Am That I Am exists outside of reality. I Am That I Am uses the aforementioned name because I Am existed before anything else—particularly the concept of names—ever did. (Therefore, when God says “I Am That I Am”, God is not only referring to God’s name, but also God’s function.)
That is why I always sneer when people put limitations on God. They make God out to be a small, hateful man. My God is infinite. My God can do anything. My God is All. By thinking for myself, I somehow have the most complete faith, despite what purists of most religions who are reading this are probably thinking, because I truly believe that God is everything and infinite and can and does do anything.

So, why am I bleating about God anyway if this is an essay on the influences of fate and freewill? Simply, it’s a nonscientific way to explain a very scientific concept: we live in an existence where so much exists beyond our world, billions of billions of galaxies, holding more stars than anyone could ever count. And the further away you look, the longer ago it is. And when looking at the past, we see we can’t really change it. Stars exploded. Galaxies collided. It’s highly likely civilizations far greater than ours lived and died a thousand times over. And there is NOTHING we can do to change it. We can see the past so vividly—we can even see the Big Bang that started it all—but we can’t touch it. It’s gone. It’s not coming back. (Well, not until time begins again—but that’s for a different essay.)

Murphy’s Law goes something like “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. Let’s expand upon that and accept this very strict fact: Anything that can happen, will happen. We are not limited to the bad. As stars die, they are born. A couple gets divorced, another marries. The universe craves balance, I think, otherwise it’d simply be too unstable to exist, or at the very least support life such as ours.

Again, the past is gone. But each second we’re alive, we’re careening into the future. And there’s the point: each decision you make is one foot through the door into the future. You’re in a never-ending hallway and life requires constant decision-making until the day you die or lose your mental faculties—whichever comes first.

And that’s when we start thinking about fate vs. free will. A lot of people like to divide it thusly: If God exists, fate rules, and there is nothing we can do about it. If there is no God, we’re on our own, and free will reigns supreme.

The universe isn’t black and white. It’s one, big, giant in-between place. And people, in their small thinking, with their small God and tiny science, like to think their way is the only right way. Religion and science can be mutually exclusive—true. But spirituality and science are the best of friends. Religion is a practice, a ritual, that you do to make sure that you’re in The Club—the “I’m going to heaven” club or the “I am a pillar of my community” club. Spirituality is where you accept that the limitations that man puts on God are just plain stupid. You can be a Christian and realize that God has no limitations. Likewise, you can still be an atheist (which is often stricter than most religions I’m aware of), and realize that the universe is still full of amazing wonders that are bigger than us. And whether you want to build a religion around those wonders is your business. (Considering you’re an atheist, you probably don’t—and that’s okay.) But you make the universe—which you are a big part of—so small by denying that there are things bigger than you, things we think are magic now, but we’ll call science just as soon as we actually understand them.

In my thinking, because God is many-faceted and limitless, and the universe in which we live—the laws of which govern us all—are part of the great I Am, everything is possible. Thus, fate and free will are not mutually exclusive, just as science and spirituality are not.

Now’s when the science happens:

Okay, so, say I make a decision. I decide that I will take the bus to Nashville. On the surface, it seems like that is that, big deal, whatever, etc. And that’s true, if you want to think with limitations (which so many people seem so fond of—amateurs).

There are actually many factors regarding my prospective Nashville trip. First of all, I could decide not to go. And I have lupus, so that’s very possible. That is Universe B. (Universe A is where I went to Nashville.)
Because I didn’t go to Nashville, I stayed in my home town. If I call the doctor because I feel unwell, that is universe B1. If, instead of calling the doctor, I decide to “wait and see”, that is universe B2. In universe B1, after leaving the doctor, I need to have lunch. I could either make a sandwich at home or pick up fast food. If I pick up fast food, that is universe B1a. (Making a sandwich would be B1b.) Let’s say I go get fast food. It could either go well (B1a1) or I could get food poisoning (B1a2). Let’s say I get food poisoning. I could be fine (B1a2a), or I could need to go back to the doctor (B1a2b). If I go to the doctor, he may send me home with anti-nausea meds (B1a2b1) or he may admit me into the hospital (B1a2b2).

Do you see how the choices begin to snowball? Simple minds would bring it back to the lupus thing and say because I didn’t go to Nashville I eventually ate a bad cheeseburger. If I had just sucked it up and gone to Nashville, I might’ve gotten a different cheeseburger at a different restaurant in the same franchise and had been fine. They would say, because it didn’t turn out that way, it was obviously my fate to have food poisoning. Sucks to be me.

But since I laid out to you the path it took the hypothetical me in these multiverses to get to that one specific universe where I got food poisoning, can you honestly say it was some preordained thing that someone, somewhere, decreed I had to get food poisoning? No. Logically, if there was someone out there that decided I needed to get food poisoning for some reason regarding fate, the path would’ve been much simpler, with far less variables and input on my part.

However, in that hypothetical scenario, it was indeed my fate to get food poisoning. Why? Because I made a bunch of decisions that tied together that culminated in that catastrophe. I had free will. I could’ve done so many things differently prior to the decision I made whether to get lunch out or go make a sandwich at home, and each one would’ve resulted in a different universe, each universe a descendant of that one where I decided whether or not to take a bus to Nashville.

Every action has a consequence, driving you to make another decision until you wind up at some point that is enough of a roadblock to feel like “fate”. (Whether that is a pleasant roadblock or not is really not the point.)

So, do I believe in fate? Yes. Do I believe in freewill? Yes. How can I believe in both at once and get away with it? Because, in my infinite reality where all things are possible, they conspire together to make life happen, propel it forward and things. Without their synergistic relationship, we’d all stagnate. And that’s never any fun.