Everyone at some point seem to come to the question of free will. Are we just passengers on a journey where our future is mapped out already, or do we have freedom to change and choose our fate? See what you think in the following parable – or better yet, listen to the story here:
Imagine you are a musician. You are the percussionist in a symphony orchestra in a major city. You are also a philosopher and lately you have been contemplating the question of free will. Tonight is the opening of a new series of operas and you are dressing up in your finest clothes.
You take a cab to the opera-house, enter, and meet with fellow musicians, who are all modestly excited about the night. You file onto the stage with a full house in attendance and find your place and your instruments.
As you settle in, your mind returns to the thought of whether or not you have free will over your life. You look at the music in front of you. The notes dictate what you will be doing, when, how loud and for how long. Your first part call for series of triangle triplets at bar 62 and you think to yourself: To prove to myself I have free will, I could decide to not ring this triangle at bar 62. The price to pay would be a few raised eyebrows, a comment afterwards by the conductor, perhaps, but you would probably probably not be fired and life would go on as always. Perhaps it would be worth it, just to show yourself you have free will…
The conductor arrives. Everyone settles down. He raises his arms and the music begins.
It is Wagner tonight, and the overture swells and turns as you dutifully count the bars. At bar 40 you pick up the triangle, but you are not sure if you will chime at 62 or not. So much of your life is series of have-to’s and must-do’s – it would be delicious this once to have your own will to follow. You are now at bar 50.
The music is like a stormy ocean, the waves are building as dark and powerful clouds. At bar 56 a crescendo reaches up towards the heavens and as the wave crests and breaks into a million particles you are supposed to be ringing your triangle as the music falls into the abyss. Bar 60. Bar 61. Bar 62…
What will you do?
What will you do in this story?
Don’t read further until you have answered for yourself.
If you are like most people, you say you would ring the triangle.
First of all, if you are a musician, you have committed yourself to music more than to your mind. But more importantly, at bar 62 the music and everyone in the orchestra and most of the audience expect the sound of a triangle. You are the only one in the hall who has one available – you even know how to use it.
Here is what I have found: When we have an opportunity to supply what is truly needed, there is nothing more satisfying than that. The thought of free will is purely academic if you are in the right place at the right time and have what the moment calls for.
We live in a Biological Matrix and when we are in harmony with life we experience an ease with which all things flow: Traffic isn’t bad, we find a good parking space, meet helpful people, and so on and so on. When we are out of sync, the alarm fails, we get a flat tire, people are late to see us, etc. etc. – and the more we try to forcefully put things right the harder it gets. I don’t know how it works, but this seems to be true, that what we think and say has power to create, but when we change our minds it takes a while for the world to catch on.
There are moments where it best to have a cup of tea and turn off the cell-phone for 10 minutes and let reality catch up with us. We may simply be ahead of ourselves. Go with the flow, as they say.
Yes, you have free will. You can use this to complicate your life or concentrate on finding where existence has a place reserved for just you.