I'll leave the loose ends in the last post for later.
Free will is an interesting topic. Being of eastern thought (and background) myself, I have an weird fascination with it. Free will is the tenet of humanity's control over its own fate, or more specifically, of each person over his own fate. I guess its opposite would be predeterminism, or at least it's the concept to which free will is most frequently juxtaposed.
Essentially, as I understand it, these two are complete and utter adversaries. On the one hand, free will empowers us to do what we want, as we want it. It also lets us make our own mistakes. However, we end up stuck because of our (and here's my eastern thought coming up) attachment to our fate. Since we control it, we have to keep it in mind when we do things that affect it. To what degree does any one event affect your fate? There's quite a bit of confusion there.
Predeterminism also has certain problems. If our fates are completely laid out, then what exactly is the point of going through the motions? If you believe in Heaven and Hell, then is it really just for us to end up in one and not the other, despite not having had control of our actions?
These are two very interesting extremes. In many eastern traditions (especially in Hindu and Buddhist lineages), neither of these extremes truly exist. Free will and predeterminism are products of Judeo-Christian, or sometimes Islamic thought. In philosphical debates, the idea arises that God is Almighty and knows all. If He knows what we're going to do, are we really free to do it? Or is it that He knows what will be despite the varying paths we take to reach that fate? A friend of mine once said, "God's knowledge of our decisions have nothing to do with our free will." Just because I know what my brother is going to eat for dinner doesn't detract from his decision of what to eat, I just know him that well. Or, I know more about the initial conditions. Or whatever... If I was God, I'd know all the information pertaining to that particular choice of his, and then some.
In eastern traditions, however, the view is very different. While various strains of thought exist, (you can be atheist and still be considered "Hindu," for example), the idea of free will is understood to have its limits. There are things I can control, and things I cannot. I cannot choose my parents, or their actions, but I can choose my wife (or to follow through with an arranged marriage, if I so desire) and my own actions. I can choose amongst the options that I have, though I may not always be presented with all options.
The reason for this? Karma. Karma (कर्म, from the root kR कृ "to do, to act") sort of like Newton's First and Third laws, but applying to our ideas, thoughts, feelings, and actions. It's the idea that what we do will affect us in the future. I'm reminded of the butterfly effect (no, not that horrid movie), where a simple action can impact or create a chain of reactions (re-actions, get it?) leading to something that was not predictable in the original conditions. Why? Because there're too many initial conditions, or too many simultaneous occurrences.. Whatever. Chaos theory is fun, children!
To boil this down, the problem with free will is that everyone (and their mother) has it. All people are created equal, since the actions of all people cause reactions elsewhere, in some way. Or, in a different light, we're all bombared by each others' free wills. The reason I can't get a good parking spot? Your free will parked your car in "my" spot.
People are dumb. Sure. But, we've all done dumb things. And, just because we're us, and we know why we did stupid things (I'll give you all the benefit of the doubt), that doesn't mean that everyone else is just dumb. How many times can we really see the whole picture? We don't actually know why other people do the things they do; if we did, we'd be them, or close enough to them to get over it. The real stupidity is not being able to remember this crucial fact, and get past it. Or, give others the benefit of the doubt.
So, before we go on complaining about how people make the dumbest mistakes, how "God's plan" for us is something entirely different, or how other people drag us into things, we should really think about action and reaction. We can't always control the action, but our reaction can be our own.
We aren't the only ones in the world; other people exist, and this is a really important lesson for a lot of people. Why should any one of our wills be any freer than any other? We're not awfully far-sighted in a lot of things. We don't know how things will turn out after a certain point from now (or even that far, in most cases). No one really does. So what's there to be all bent out of shape about?
The End of the Rainbow - [image: The retina is the exposed surface of the brain, so if you think about a pot of gold while looking at a rainbow, then there's one at BOTH ends.]
11 hours ago