Tuesday, February 1, 2011
All you have to do is look at the results of the absense of free will and you can see that it is bad.
Slavery is the ultimate lack of freedom. And though we wish that was just a term from the history books, it isn’t. Humans sold to do the will of other humans is still a thriving, ugly practice.
Rape is a violation of will.
Addiction breaks will--a type of slavery without a master.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition an important tenet is that God created man with free will. The ability to choose, or not choose Him. The freedom to obey His commandments or not. And while much of my early religious education focused on teaching me “the rules” and stressing how important it was that I follow them, I’ve learned as an adult that most of God’s commandments deal with living in accordance with our design. Most of the ten commandments are about relationships…how live in relationship to God and each other in a way that love rules all. The Jewish dietary laws are all about health. Even taking one day a week to rest and worship isn’t meant as a burden of practice, but something our bodies and souls need.
So if the religious laws are actually good for us, then why give us the ability to break them? Why put Adam and Eve in a garden with a rule that if broken would mess up creation for thousands of years to follow?
I think part of the challenge is that most often we think of ourselves and our choices like the man in the arena in Frank Stockton's short story, The Lady or The Tiger. As Wikipedia frames the story, "The semi-barbaric king of an ancient land used an unusual form of punishment for offenders in his kingdom. The offender would be placed in an arena where his only way out would be to go through one of two doors. Behind one door was a beautiful woman hand-picked by the king and behind the other was a fierce tiger. The offender was then asked to pick one of the doors without knowing what was behind it. If he picked the door with the woman behind it, then he was declared innocent but was also required to marry the woman, regardless of previous marital status. If he picked the door with the tiger behind it, though, then he was deemed guilty and the tiger would rip him to pieces."
If every decision is a choice between heaven and hell, then we can become overly impressed by what we choose. And, we become extremely concerned about what others choose.
But the reality is that most choices aren't dramatic Lady/Tiger choices. Do we watch tv or do we clean the kitchen? Do we throw out that piece of paper or do we keep it? Do we like the blue one or the red?
The more important ones are about how we respond. Do we choose humility or do we choose pride? Do we choose forgiveness or do we choose anger? Do we choose to engage our faults or do we choose self-pity? Do we choose for ourselves or do we choose to lay down our life for others?
Our choices form us. They form the type of world we live in. Subtly. Without fanfare.
As long as we view our choices about being right, we will justify enforcing our will. But viewing choices as forming our identity is a different lens. A lens that gives us more time to choose and margin to adjust trajectory when we find we don't like who we are becoming.
Probably more importantly, if we live in a world where the God of the universe doesn't force His will on us, then it would seem extremely arrogant for us to take any other stance.