I am not the sharpest piece of cutlery in the drawer, yet I am not the dullest piece of iron in the scrap heap. What the horrid analogy in the opening sentence of this blog is attempting to allude to is that people often tell me I think or dwell on aspects of life too much. It is a self-realization I have had since I was a young person and it does not necessarily mean I am a person of higher intelligence. You can play basketball every day of your life (warning: all my writing will contain analogies this vague) but not be really that good at it. Sure you will develop a certain comfort level with handling the ball, shooting, etc., but your natural ability and talent takes you as far as you will go. So while I often will ponder, ruminate and even sometimes marinate far too long on the workings of the universe it doesn’t mean I have attained a higher level of metaphysical understanding. In truth, I’m probably more lost than I was when I started out.
I’ve come to realize that it will not stop me from this exercise, and that got me thinking about….my thinking. I’m not the only one who wonders about how we as humans make choices. There are certainly a wide spectrum of opinions on the subject. I can’t speak with absolutism (should anyone though?) on the theories which religion and science have brought forth but I can relate my experiences. In the end that is really all we have to go on. I do think that the knowledge you gain from study in accompaniment to how you process your life experiences should form how you view existence. This is mostly because in the end you are the one person you are irrevocably attached to. The difficult part is tempering the passion of your convictions when relating them to others; a problem I do not believe the world has solved or has the ability to solve.
One of the tenants of life I learned growing up was that people had free will. I can’t say for certain if that is what most kids are taught growing up. Believe it or not I was even taught this in the Catholic grade school I went to. In my 7th grade religion class workbook it had the passage that read: “God gave man the free will to choose between right and wrong.” I was so entranced I pulled out my yellow highlighter and vigorously covered it in bright neon ink. Here I was, at odds with the stringent teachings of dogmatic Catholic faith that told me about everyday how it was God’s way (according to them) or the path of damnation and in a book used to teach me about that way was this revelation. It fostered my belief that we all had a clean slate in front of us, that nothing was pre-destined in our lives and the choices we made were what made our lives into what they would become. I cannot say for certain that the noble principle I formed back then is wrong, I just know I don’t exactly believe it anymore.
As I got older and was exposed to more of what life has to offer (the good and bad) I began to think that maybe there was a natural flow to life and our choices. I never got as far that all of life was a forgone conclusion and all our choices are merely steps that we have no control over as we wind down our eventual path. My freshman year of high school our English teacher made us memorize “The Road Less Traveled” by Robert Frost. “Two roads diverge in a yellow wood and sorry I could not travel both” it begins. I think the poem itself is more of a parable of going against conformity and the benefits that can bring but it made me think of how there are only two roads in this yellow wood. The choice is up to you but you are destined to choose one or the other. This brought about my thinking that one’s life could take a series of dramatic turns based on the choices they make, however one only has a certain amount of choices available. These choices were limited by all the circumstances the universe had constructed to put them in that very spot. From there it was the individual’s free will of choice that made all the difference.
So for a long time, through my 20s I was one of the mind that it was my choices that had put myself in the position I was in for better or worse. Within the encompassing frame of my existence I was actively forging the direction of my life. However, during this time the velocity of my life had slowed and for a good stretch of time I referred to my situation more as a crossroads than two roads diverging. Suddenly circumstances didn’t seem to matter as much. The bottom line is that my choices seemed to be more inevitable outcomes than meticulous culminations of rational thought in my head.
I used to give a lot of snark (hopefully in my head not outwardly) when acquaintances or even friends of mine would give me the “everything happens for a reason” line. I still view that line with disdain, mainly because of course there is a reason for everything that happens but it is not always a good one. It is a throw away line in my opinion to make people feel better when bad shit happens to them. It is like when a bird shits on your car and people tell you it is good luck or if it is raining on a bride’s wedding day people offer to her that it is a sign of good luck. Cause and effect does not always bend in your favor. I do know that religious people subscribe to the “everything works out in the end” theory of life so I just accept that is what they believe and I try not to deride it. I say try but I can’t get completely on board with that.
[I am not anti-religion as I have noticed this post might insinuate so far. I consider myself a believer in a higher power, I just don’t know who or what it is and what it’s purpose is in regards to the human race. Railing against organized religion may make me seem like another hipster atheist who says they are spiritual but it just is not true. My aim is not to deconstruct religion or God in this post but the tie-ins to my experiences in the past with the subject and with many friends whom are connected deeply with their respective churches is necessary to my thoughts.]
I sometimes get the “this is God’s plan” line but I can’t sit back and say oh well, the churning of my mind is all facilitated as part of a grand design. Once again I bite my lip for my friends merely trying to comfort or encourage me. Once again as time went on though, something to this effect crossed my mind. It had nothing to do with God, or at least in a theological sense. I began to wonder recently in the past months whether my actions and decisions were all as inevitable as I previously thought. I hearkened back to many crucial life decisions I had made in the past few years. I felt as if there were choices in front of me, but in the end I went with the one that I felt compelled to make. The one that was inherent in me to choose. Even the decisions that seemed to pull me off a planned track or derail what could have afforded me a more stable situation seemed to be an involuntary function.
There are theories out there (I heard about it on the podcast Radiolab) that the universe goes on and on and that since there are only a finite number of chemicals and molecules out there (given in a ginormous variety) and a finite way of arranging them (also huge number) that somewhere along the lines there is another you out there, arranged in exactly the same way with the same body and brain making the same decisions you are. This simply means the chemical make-up of your brain will determine everything about you and if you were created with exactly the same molecules you would act and decide the same way.
To me this goes to the other extreme of where I first started out. Most of the time I meet in the middle when my two extremes clash and this was no different. Lately I feel that there is most definitely an open choice before me, but my brain is going to compel me to choose one way no matter what. It’s not exactly a forgone conclusion, but when it comes down to it myself knows myself for lack of a better phrase. There might be people out there that are capable of making that other choice, but right now personally I cannot see it.
Perhaps this comes from my experiences and how my earlier life choices influenced the course of events. Now having gone through that my emotions and rational mind are in tune to what I really want and all the ponderous thought that would go into a decision are merely just a brain exercise. Deep down my mind knows which path I will take, and it get’s to that decision much quicker. This can leave me slightly unnerved that I am merely floating along. It also gives the feeling that I should make the opposite of a important decision just to break that pattern but then you fall into the classic conundrum of that’s exactly what my brain knew I would do and it ends up being the choice you make anyway.
So where this leaves me on my first meandering post of this blog is that for right now it appears I am compelled to make certain choices in my life. Not necessarily because of a higher power guiding me and definitely not because of a moral obligation of righteousness. It is merely what my mind knows what I want. I will never be impulsive, I always will over-analyze these choices, but from inside the walls of my cerebrum all that thought is just a way to pass the day, much like this blog.