Sunday, May 15, 2011

The illusion of choice....

It's nice to believe that we are all masters of our own fate. The captains of our own ships. The average Joe would probably prefer to believe the concept of free choice other than predestination. To believe in predestination is to believe that all our actions are of no consequence and our fate is predetermined and inescapable. Or, that our actions do have some little consequence over some bits and pieces of our lives but the ultimate outcome remains carved in stone.

I don't know.

The best I can think of is that life is like a game of Monopoly, or poker. There is still skill involved, but skill is nothing without a good roll of the die or luck of the draw. Skill and perseverance by themselves are probably not enough, otherwise everyone working their tails off should be successful eventually. We all know this is not the case. As for pure luck, I'm not sure, I've never been that lucky to know firsthand how it is. Still, I guess it happens. People win lotteries. Some people are just at the right place at the right time. But luck is a variable, an indeterminable, an x-factor which you can't count on in life. Sometimes it's there, sometimes it isn't. And sometimes you just can't tell at all.

So if you can't rely on luck, you try to take matters into your own hands. You take charge, you take control. You make choices. But, for the sake of discussion within the confines of this blog post, let's just say that choice seems somewhat...illusory. We all make choices everyday, mundane things like what to eat, what to buy, where to go, to serious things like business decisions and personal relationships, to the seemingly irrelevant like personal labels and opinions...but most of us are still stuck in our daily routines. Choice, despite all its hype, for the most part seems to refuse to lift us from the doldrums of our daily existence. Or it is just incapable of doing so.

Just like an airbag or a seatbelt. We're just pleased to know it's there, but 99.9% of the time we don't need it, and for that 99.9% it's existence is meaningless. Unless of course you're in a car accident, and for that .1% airbags and seatbelts are the greatest things in the world.

Maybe that is the paradox of choices. Maybe, just maybe, 99.9% of the time, we'd rather choose to remain where we are now. Of course, the choice not to make a choice is a choice in itself.

Choice is also limited. The most important aspects of our lives are beyond our control. Our physical attributes and appearances are dictated by genes (unless you're extremely vain and/or you can afford cosmetic surgery). Our parents, our economic conditions at the start, our race, our nationalities, our genders (notwithstanding sex change operations), maybe even our sexual preferences are all predetermined at birth. Even after birth, our fates are at the mercy of those who rear us. Our mannerisms, beliefs, religion, morals, are shaped by those who raise us, by the schools we go to, and by the time we are of sufficient age to discern what we want for ourselves, the damage has been done, so to speak, and any new paths we choose to take are often initiated by thoughts of dissatisfaction, disillusionment, or disgruntlement over the status quo. And sometimes, it's already too late. We end up who we are...whether we like it or not.

The concept of youth is also paradox in itself. Why are the most important choices in our lives, the ones which may actually have some bearing for the rest of our lives given to us in our youth, when we do not have the wisdom, the mental and emotional fortitude to make good choices. It seems that life has condemned us to make mistakes in our youth and to spend most of our adult lives paying for those mistakes.

Maybe that's the way life was meant to be.

I can be such a cynic. :-)

Still, agree or disagree...it makes good food for thought. It's a debate that has been going on since time immemorial, and it doesn't seem if anyone will have any of the answers anytime soon.

Sometimes...I just think that there's really no such thing as fate or destiny. Or even control or choice. Everything just revolves around...causality. Things happen simply because. Just because. Good or bad, that maybe all there is to it. Causality. Maybe I'll go further along this train of thought in future post. For now, let's leave it at that.

No one can see beyond a choice they don't understand, and I mean no one.

- The Oracle





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