Friday, January 9, 2009

The Tao of Free Will

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Free Will; that it is at once a great gift and yet a terrible burden (I don’t mean the freedoms that we enjoy here in the United States and the rest of the Western world, but rather the Free Will, capital “F” capital “W”, that God has seen fit to bestow upon us, His children of the linear).

Since I’m not an overtly religious person (in that I don’t wear my beliefs on my sleeve), nor do I participate much in my own organized religion (being a serenely lapsed Roman Catholic), and there is barely a handful of people with whom I discuss these things, I tend to have more of an inner dialog with the Big Guy’s various caretakers of my soul.

So my inner dialog around Free Will has gotten around to this: Free Will, after Faith, Hope, and Love, must be His fourth greatest gift, and it’s the one that packs a punch. How much faith must He have in us, to give us such a sharp pair of scissors as we run amok? What is He thinking?!? We as a breed are spectacularly unwilling to take responsibility for our own actions … witness the Twinkie Defense.

I get crazed when I read or hear about some other yahoo who has managed to screw a significant number of people in his (or her) pursuit of the (typically) almighty dollar. Lately it’s been bailed out banks that refuse to use the funds responsibly, but feel free to give ridiculous severance packages that amount to $8 million for each week (week!) employed. Really? Or how about revamping the credit card industry, but we'll just wait until June before we start. That way we can enjoy six extra months of people losing their homes and livelihoods (oh joy, oh rapture). It's enough to get my conspiracy theory tweak on.

You know, the one where there's about twelve really old, really wealthy, incredibly powerful white dudes ruling the world. Surely you've heard of it? We could, at the very least, get rid of all the lobbyists in Washington. They are ruining the world. There, I said it ... the economic plight of the world is directly due to the damage lobbyists have been allowd to do to the mores and values of our politicians. Okay, climbing down off the crazy now.

There have been great philosophical and moral debates structured solely around the meaning and causality of Free Will; “isms” have been created (such as “determinism” and “indeterminism”), and schisms have formed between groups of (otherwise fairly) reasonable people.

But to me responsible use of one’s Free Will boils down to two things: 1) do no harm to others, and 2) treat others as you would have them treat you. Now really, how hard can that be?

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