Perhaps You are Merely Lost in Mid-Sentence…
I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir, because I’m not myself you see.
– Alice, “Alice in Wonderland”
You are both the author of your biography and the protagonist in a work of fiction.
Although some would argue that our story is already written and that we are simply walking through our pre-determined roles, I’m not among them. That being said, when it comes to the choices we make — how/why/what we decide — I’ll concede a portion of the “Free Will is a Myth” argument. It’s impossible (foolish) to dismiss the impact and minimize the complexity of the genetic, biochemical, social, environmental and physical determinants that create circumstance and feed the decisions we make.
At this very moment, now, this mostly carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen mass of neurons, protons and electrons called, “Michael” is the sum total of his (its) atomic experience. Okay, got it. What about the next moment? Is there a point in time where there is an “I” and “I” gets to call the shots? How about a moment where I get to take the stage for a solo performance while giving a tip of my hat or the back of my hand (depending upon the performance) to my supporting cast of ancestors, butterfly wings, travelers, dopamine surges and neuron receptors?
In this cosmic story, am I (Michael) a word, a paragraph, a punctuation mark, an independent/dependant clause? Perhaps I’m merely a work in progress, a partially written sentence created by a multitude of causes put into play before this form of “I” arrived. That being the case, perhaps I am both an evolving and expanding causation particle in a collective universe as well as a solitary effect innocently stumbling in mid-sentence — pen in hand, tasked with completing the line — doing the best I can and trying not to get too lost along the journey? Yes, I am both. And — so I believe — are you.
I find myself in this uncomfortably comfortable camp of supporting a philosophy of limited free will and limited determinism. This allows me to have a firm moral compass based on the belief that the events preceding this moment (many completely out of my control … birth, gender, race, flapping butterflies, etc.) may have determined this moment HOWEVER the proximity of now gives me — and you — the freedom and the RESPONSIBILITY of choice.
“So long as a man imagines that he cannot do this or that, so long as he is determined not to do it; and consequently so long as it is impossible to him that he should do it.”
– Baruch Spinoza