Not that there hasn’t been much to write. Things have just been a little out of control lately. Lots happened in the last few weeks that kept me away from writing. But what really pushed me to write today is a movie – The Adjustment Bureau. Let me make it clear, I did not like the movie. It is a very well packaged product, but has a silly story line that is neither fictional nor contemporary. It raises some good questions and attempts to answer them in a bollywood style. This post is not about the movie. But if I may add one more thing about it – Emily Blunt is BEAUTIFUL. And she pairs really well with Matt Damon.
Some of the questions this movie raises are – What is free will? Do we EVER act as per our free will? Do we even recognize it?
One of the many definitions of ‘Free Will’ is – “The doctrine that human beings (and possibly other beings, such angels or higher animals) are able to choose their actions without being caused to do so by external forces)”
Given that we live in a world of norms and laws, the concept of free will is somewhat lost. I can only speak for myself and I confess that I rarely act as per my free will. Agam argues that my decision to not take a shower early morning is a result of free will choice that I made. Though I agree with him, but my discussion here is at a higher scale – in terms of how we behave and act, guided by the way we are supposed to, as opposed to how we want to.
We are always thinking in terms of what is right and what is wrong. What is “allowed” and what is “restricted”. We also modify our reactions to events based on what is expected of us. So when do we exercise this free will? Probably in our sleep, when we dream. That is the only time we are limited to ourselves, and our actions are not under societal scrutiny. But don’t our dreams pick up traces of activity from our daily lives and weaves a vision together based on those snippets. So perhaps, even dreams are also not supportive of free will.
The way I see it, animals use their free will more than us humans. Like those elephants that dance in water and splash it over each other. The seals by the ocean that are sloppily lying around, sleeping on top of each other, making obnoxious sounds. There are no laws or expectations that prohibit them from being their natural self. So they can use their free will and act accordingly.
The more I think about it, I am forced to believe that even if I use my free will in making a choice, it alone cannot account for much. It is to be paired with freedom of action, for it to make any sense.
For me if I can ever act as per my free will, I will quit this race, and become an observer. I will travel the world – no visa no passport. May be work as a Barista in Starbucks, or go to India and do something totally random, like make kites. I will go back to school and further explore my interests as an amateur nature photographer, an observer of people’s behavior, a culinary scholar, and a contemporary writer. I will raise kids and take them to school every day, and drop a tear each time they leave my hand and go towards their classes. I will work on my relationships. I will work for organizations that share my spirit and build teams that share my enthusiasm for work.
Agam argues with me that at the end of the day, it is a choice you make and you can very well make these choices right now. And I argue back, that it is important to note the framework in which I am expected to make the choice. And though I agree that I can also choose that framework, it is hardly ever the case, give the society we live in. Our frameworks are outlined by the laws and norms around us.
So this is what The Adjustment Bureau did for me –it made me think about free will. And I can see that I will be thinking about it for some time now.
Image Source – Scientopia.org.