The other day I overheard someone mention predestination and it got my mind rolling back to the thought of choice and free will. I’ve written of it often in the past as the concept totally captivates me. There is little more we can offer here than speculation – there can be no proof, no empirical evidence that what we do is our choice as opposed to already scripted for us. Oh sure, it’s easy to suddenly get up and run over to the door, run outside, grab the hose and spray yourself with cold water and declare that was totally your choice and your free will that precipitated that event. But those who believe in a completely predestined life would argue that, since the day you were born, this moment was designed and just waiting to happen; you had no other choice but to do exactly what you did with the hose – it was decided before you were born. Spins the fleshy walnut inside that head just a bit, doesn’t it??
If true, how to we manage to journey through life with a smile knowing all the while that you have no choice…no other options that to do what is already prescribed for you; you are merely an actor – a prop – in your own life. Want to go out for a meal? Maybe Italian, maybe Chinese, maybe seafood? Hah! Doesn’t’ matter – you’re going to go for seafood because that’s what is written in your plan. Accepting totality in predestination embraces the thought that we are just along for the ride. And frankly, that can be a pretty relaxing and stress-free way to live for many people. Consider the relief of not having to worry about that exam or that job promotion. There’s no point in worrying: it is preordained whether you will pass or fail, get promoted or not. No need to sweat it because there’s nothing you can do to change the outcome. So you just drop the worries, the concerns, the stress, and the doubt and you go through life with a smile on your face, whistling all the while. And I think we have all know people like this; the ones who don’t ever seem stressed or worried about anything.
Naturally, this is an extremely unnatural way to live: not sure I can ever imagine a person capable of living an entire lifetime without once stressing, worrying, or agonizing over something or another. It is inconceivable to me that, no matter how deeply you believe and are convinced that there is no free will and that everything little thing is already scripted and decided, a person won’t lie awake even once in their lifetime worrying about whether they got that job or passed that test or how their bloodwork will turn out. And there is a reason for that.
Regardless of who is in control of the outcome, no matter how minutely our lives are pre-scripted, we have a desired outcome – an end result we deeply desire versus an end result we desperately don’t want to see. Want to know how you feel about something you can’t quite decide upon? Toss a coin and vow to live by the result and see how quickly you start pulling for heads or tails! And when we want something, yearn something, crave it in our souls – we worry about not getting it. And that, dear reader, is inescapable. Merely knowing that an outcome is preordained does nothing about diminishing the fear of not getting what we want; in fact it actually makes it worse because it takes the outcome completely out of our control.
Now consider a life where we have choice and free will to turn left versus right, but also a life where your path throughout is already laid out. I entered adulthood as a loser….well sort of a loser. I had just dropped out of college, I had all my worldly possessions in a small gym bag, I had something like $7 in my pocket, had no place to live, and was in a strange state where I knew no one. I ended up as the Manager of Quality at the primary manufacturing plant for the biggest defense contractor in the US building the most sophisticated machine in the world. Draw a line between those two points! When my life’s travels began to come into focus, the line is certainly winding and twisted all over the place, as you would expect. But it may well be that my final role as a working man was decided eons before I was born; all the missteps, sidesteps, and stumbles along the way were completely of my choosing, but as they say “all paths lead to Rome” – all the paths in your life, no matter how often you step off the path for a detour, will ultimately lead you where you are supposed to end up.
This then, leads into the other delicious ponderance of all those things that are under our control, but are still predestined. Take an event such as meeting a person: it may well be that as part of the masterplan of your life, that person needs to be in your life – your end state cannot be achieved without that person walking along with you for at least a part of the way, certainly at some critical juncture, but how and where you meet that person is completely arbitrary. You “get” to choose the circumstances in which you meet them. You may decide to not attend a barbecue at Sam’s and as a result, will miss the moment in which you would have met this individual who is so important to your life journey. But two weeks (or maybe two years) later, you will decide to go shopping for a new TV or to try a new restaurant and that is where you will meet that person. This model is a hybrid of freewill and predestination and is my personal favorite. I believe we end up who and where we are supposed to end up, but how we get there, how badly we detour, is completely up to us. Wishing you a pleasant day – of your choosing dear reader – along your personal path. Stay well!!