We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Free Will or Fate?


Last night I finally watched The Adjustment Bureau, a movie about fate versus free will, and because that's right up tarot's alley and mine, I recommend it even if sci-fi isn't your thing.  I'll try not to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it, but I won't make any promises.

The story is boy-meets-girl, but the twist is that there are cosmic forces that are trying to keep them apart even though they really, really like each other a lot.   A whole lot.  So much that even when threatened with losing everything and what amounts to a lobotomy by beings who can easily follow through, the guy doesn't give up on taking the path he feels in his guts is right for him.  Here's a trailer:

The basic premise is that we all have a life plan that is charted for us by The Chairman and these members of the Adjustment Bureau are charged with making sure that we follow it.  They do this through orchestrating slight mishaps, inconveniences, and other "adjustments" in our lives that manipulate it just enough to keep us on track.  If that doesn't work, they will tweak our reasoning process a bit in order to make the decisions we're supposed to.  It's all very cloak and dagger and highly coordinated.  The idea of free will is just that, an idea.  We have it in the little stuff but not in the decisions that impact the course of our lives.

I am a very big fan of free will.  While I have known some people who prefer their life plotted out for them and who wouldn't take responsibility for a dang thing, always saying, "It was/is God's will,"  most of us like to manage our lives ourselves, please and thank  you.  But something this movie highlighted was that even without The Adjustment Bureau, society does a really good stand in job for them.  At the end of the movie these words are spoken:

Most people live life on the path we set for them, too afraid to explore any other. But once in a while people like you come along who knock down all the obstacles we put in your way. People who realize freewill is a gift that you'll never know how to use until you fight for it. I think that's the chairman's real plan. That maybe one day, we won't write the plan, you will.
Right?  If you think about it, our families, our friends, our social environment all serve as The Adjustment Bureau.  When we step off the grid a bit, they are quick to try and rein us back in.  What ensues is usually so unpleasant we become afraid of stepping off again. But there are some people who just don't give a crap what others think or feel and grasp their own fate by the throat and just take it.  They just take it.  And they do so with no other proof, no other evidence than the gnawing in their entrails that tells them there's more for them over there, doing it this other way. 

Today I found this quote: “Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.” --Jawaharlal Nehru (Indian Prime Minister 1889-1964)  Philosophers argue whether there is even such a thing as true free will since we are all subject to causal relationships and random acts are not premeditated and therefore not freely chosen.  However, I like this compatibilistic (the theory that free will and determinism can co-exist) view of Nehru's even though determinists would dismiss it saying how we play the cards depends on our biology (nature), environment (nurture) and a host of other predetermined factors.  Still, whatever we have, predetermined or not, we have the choice to work with it, against it, or with some combination thereof.  We love rags-to-riches stories because they highlight how a person's own will can rise and triumph over the weight of negative deterministic conditions. 

My own life experience has evidenced that while I do have choices, I am not all-powerful or limitless.  I understand there are some things that "just happen," but what Nehru is saying is that how we respond, how we choose our next move, is something we alone ultimately control.  While we are not likely to choose contrary to our own brain wiring nor our lived experiences, we sometimes do.  And I think those times are when our intuition is so strong we actually feel like it's something we're "destined" to do.  Ironic that at the moment we are fighting hardest for our free will that we would attribute it to fate.

"And maybe that's the Chairman's real plan."

Could it be that in those moments of actual or as close as we can get to free will that the reason we feel such commitment and resolve, despite the gut-wrenching fear, is because we are meant to learn how to become more and more free?  I like to think so.


  1. was it free will or determinism, that made me fed up enough to divorce my husband of almost 20 years and move 2010 miles away to start a new life, with my H.S. sweetheart who, BTW I hadn't seen in 28 years?
    there were a lot of spooky "adjustments" that had to be made for us to even have met again, let alone the rest of it.
    like nurture vs nature they work in tandem. those that think things can be examined or exist in a vacuum are foolish to do so. vacuums are human constructs as are a great many other things. one has to live life to experience it and one has, ultimately, to make their own decisions, even no decision IS a decision.
    so to those who would take the "easy" no waves path I say, we're all screwed anyway, take the plunge!
    what's the worst that can happen?
    you have an interesting story to tell, in your dotage. ;)

  2. Fascinating topic, Ginny!

    This exploration reminds me of a documentary study of twins focused on if or how they are psychically connected. The most extreme example I remember was a pair of twins who were separated at birth and found each other in their adult life. Even after growing up with different families (nurture), they had made many of the same choices in life (nature?). One theory is that our bodies (DNA) are hardwired to develop in such a way as to create prescribed pathways, especially our brains. This could be the “hand we are dealt.”

    In my work as a counselor, not only am I constantly uncovering the “nurture” part of a person’s psyche that inspires their thoughts and behaviors, based on environmental influences and programming, but I am fascinated with the power of their intelligent design, as you will, the soul or universal purpose that is in their cells. It is that “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” (Marianne Willamson “A Return to Love”)

    Breaking out of the conforms of societal or collective norm to evolve into our greatest potential, beyond fear, is our greatest gift to the world. Rather than focus on dualities such as light and dark, I prefer the experience of love, enlivenment, connection with all. When we cut ourselves off from this connection, we spin into shades of fear and are then easily manipulated.

    If I were to oversimplify my take on this film, it is to stay focused on what we love, and to have the courage to face our fears to the point where they no longer have power over us.

    In Light & Love,

  3. Such great comments! Andre, I agree that we have yet to delve the depths of the human brain and its capacities. The way each individual picks and chooses from the various experiences may be determined by our biology, but there are times when, as you said, predicting someone's behavior is nigh impossible. Just when you think you have someone figured out...LOL.

    Momma Bear, oh yes. Your story, similar to mine in some ways, is why I found this film so personal and interesting. Those crucial moments we take a strong turn and go in a completely different direction, off the path we were on, provoked by an irresistible pull feel SO "destined." And yet, they could be the very times we are breaking from our "destiny" in order to exercise our free will to create our OWN destiny. We fight for it. I never really saw it that way and I find that idea very interesting.

    Katrina, your feedback is always so very interesting and valuable. I am certain more people would feel "free" to make choices that diverge from "the plan" if they weren't so very afraid. Developing courage, the virtue of Strength, is so essential to being free.

  4. Thank you Ginny. I'm at a point in my life where I'm about to make a dash off the beaten path I thought I'd follow. I needed to hear this post.

  5. Hey Hobby Bard, I wish you the best. Courage! And watch out for men in hats. ;)

  6. I agree. There is no such thing as absolute determinism. The train has a specific destination, but it's up to you whether you'll ride or not. That's free will at work. :) The predictions generated through tarot card reading only provide an overview of our life path but never an absolute prediction that's bound to happen no matter what. Cheers. :)

  7. So you snuck a link in there, Yuri. It's ok, I won't delete your comment like I usually do when someone spams their link here, because you actually added substance to the convo. Thanks. (That link better not be malicious.)

  8. really impressive post. thanks.

  9. Thanks for giving us this wonderful vision about a topic like this one.


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