I believe in free will. Free will is the most beautiful thing. It emerges from bondage, necessarily. A fully isolated ‘person’ or ‘thing’ can do nothing; unsupported by the infinitely complex networks of environmental systems and subsystems, no system can be, or, as Charles Eisenstein puts it, inter-be. Nothing makes sense in isolation, and there is no such thing as nothing. No ‘thing’ can ‘be’ in isolation; existence is and can only be interbeing. And as you can see, we need new words to speak this new language, to tell the new story. Our language, which has us by the throat (pun intended), is too immaturely dualistic to sing the new tune emerging now all around us. The transition involves in part the acceptance and embracing of paradox. Opposites unite. Division is illusion. Illusion is reality. All interbeing.
Freedom stems etymologically from friendship. The taproot of freedom is therefore bondage, debt, obligation, embededness, necessity. Unless you are bound to the network which enables you, that is, unless you inter-are, you cannot inter-be, cannot exist or act, in which case freedom is utterly moot. ‘Free will’ is an expression for chance, or wriggle-room. The future is not predictable, not controllable, just like (what we call) the present (I do not know what time is, or ‘inter-is’). Unpredictability and uncontrollability are what free will is. It is not sovereignty. Free will is an emergent property operating at the level of a meta-self, a supra-agency no ego can perceive. It cannot be owned, it cannot be controlled, though the real illusion of control emerges from it. I could not be writing these comprehensible words were that not the case, though they emerge from me beyond my control. There is no sovereign Toby Russell autonomously doing this, despite what my ego-experience tells me. Toby Russell is the embedded vehicle enabling the emergence of that which emerges from him.
Totalitarianism, or purity, which is about controlling all possible outcomes in the name of some ideology or other, impedes ‘freedom’ by fearfully refusing to allow ‘chaos’ and ‘anarchy’ to upset, spoil or otherwise make ‘messy’ some preferred vision of How Things Should Be. This possibility, this Dream of Human Ascent is as natural as rain, emerged by ‘chance’ out of chance, e.g., with ‘inventions’ such as the Taming of Fire (though other animal tool-use precedes this, is a ‘preparation’ of sorts, as is all prior evolution, in a way). Control is born by ‘accident’, totalitarianism its unforeseen descendant. All forms of the state tend towards totalitarianism because they are fundamentally about control, and as such must get ‘better’ at it to survive. This is a great paradox, since the anonymity of The Wild seems to beckon if we relinquish our grip, our control. Slippery, slippery slope!
We must feed the beast, for the beast is necessity. It is our relationship with it which determines how bound-free we are. There will always be debt. There is no freedom but that it arises from necessity and bondage as the wriggle-room in which creativity and change can occur. Carl Jung said, “Free will is doing gladly that which one must do.” Bondage is embeddedness in and emergence out of the environmental network of systems which enable us, which paradoxically yield freedom, or chance, which we might think of as the space for change, which yields suffering and joy, ‘opposites’ united by their interbeing.
I talk of chance as if it were fundamental, and yet deeper still there is design. The very fact we have the word and ‘understand’ it is evidence enough. Universe has birthed the concept, the perception. Therefore design is of Universe, of its fabric, is no new, accidental and separate epiphenomenon of ‘matter’. Intelligent design unknowing, blind. Blind, intelligent design, Dawkins’ worst nightmare; the intelligent, blind watchmaker interwoven into everything. There is nothing which is not god. There is only god. All horror and beauty ever perceived included, and everything else too. This is the bitter sweet pill.
Woodie Guthrie sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” When you let go of the illusion of control, fall backwards into whatever embrace nature has in store for you, accepting, then you know ‘freedom’. It is the heady and liberating air of necessity. In a world of fear, control and ‘ownership’, freedom becomes the worst kind of rigid bondage. Today we have Consumerism, dying for any number of reasons. We are drenched through with its fear, and its fear of demise. Our systems of propaganda, which we each feed and sustain as we are fed and sustained by them, paint my definition of freedom as shoddy poverty, ‘raw’ nature as idle resources “red in tooth and claw.” My position here is (partly) from Rousseau of course, except that I can no longer be ‘against’ any of that which I disparage. Being against the state or the market or the corporation is like being against solar flares or hurricanes or the human orgasm. Does this mean I no longer have the will to battle for a better life (whatever that is)? Yes. And it means also I have more desire than ever. Good is bad, everything is natural, and I can’t not fight for the love of life I feel. Love is the liberating bond freeing me to inter-be.
“I want you to listen to this paradox, really not with your mind or your reason that tries to figure it out, but I want to just kind of let it sit in the atmosphere, and for you to feel. So the paradox is this:
The more beautiful world our heart tells us is possible is inevitable. It is going to happen. 100% sure. And it will only happen through the exertion of our full efforts and the application of all of our gifts. If you don’t apply all of your gifts to this, then it’s not going to happen. Yet it is inevitable that it will happen.”
“The critical problem with most of these studies is that if the subject decided beforehand to look for such contingencies, he would of course be conscious of what he was learning to do. One way to get around this is to use a behavioral response which is imperceptible to the subject. And this has been done, using a very small muscle in the thumb whose movements are imperceptible to us and can only be detected by an electrical recording apparatus. The subjects were told that the experiments were concerned with the effect of intermittent unpleasant noise combined with music upon muscle tension. Four electrodes were placed on their bodies, the only real one being the one over the small thumb muscle, the other three being dummy electrodes. The apparatus was so arranged that whenever the imperceptible thumb-muscle twitch was electrically detected, the unpleasant noise was stopped for 15 seconds if it was already sounding, or delayed for 15 seconds if it was not turned on at the time of the twitch. In all subjects, the imperceptible thumb twitch that turned off the distressing noise increased in rate without the subjects’ being the slightest bit conscious that they were learning to turn off the unpleasant noise.”