Free will.

I have found myself neck deep in the morass of Wikipedia researching the concept of free will because I’m curious as to whether or not I believe in it. I am beginning to suspect that I have changed course on this front and no longer necessarily believe that it exists.

There is just a lot to be said for prior conditions dating back as old as the universe may in fact be. How many seemingly random and disparate factors came together to become the series of events that lead up to my birth? The number seems incalculable upon first glance because there isn’t even a firm grasp on the age of the universe. They came up with a figure that was something like 13.8 billion years and then discovered new information that may have pushed it past that time by a substantial amount. With better information, we make a more informed guess, but all of that information has been available for billions of years before our planet had even begun to form.

Fast forward to now. The decision to write this post is in large part due to my curiosity and penchant for writing, both of which were already firmly in place before I wrote the first letter. Going back, I am sure that these manifested as part of my character at a much younger age and have only now bore the fruit of this post. It required everything between the inception of these characteristics and all that I have learned and integrated as a person to bring me to this point in time. It also required all of the events leading up to the inception of these characteristics, but that is a chain that goes back as far as time.

The substance of the post was formed by elements now engrained into the very fabric of who I am, so although I may be choosing words as I see fit, it is from a preordained vocabulary. The aforementioned curiosity will allow me to expand this vocabulary so that later posts on the topic may be more legible, but that will be a byproduct of an existing condition, that of my curiosity, and by a factor of my biology retaining the information in the hippocampus. I never made the decision to be curious, it occurred at some point, and has remained central to who I consider myself to be.

I see our ability to make decisions somehow separate from the concept of free will, though. It is just that we only ever get to choose from a preselected list of options, akin to that of a person’s vocabulary. I can choose whatever word I like to describe the view outside my window right now, but only from the words I possess through prior knowledge. The words outside of this scope are all of the possible choices that could be made, but not by me. Everything is not a yes or no question like belief in free will, and with more options, the world becomes a veritable grayscale.

If, by a factor of my existing curiosity, I should discover a new word, I add it to the vocabulary and it becomes an unlocked possibility. It becomes another possible choice for that version of myself, but I didn’t choose to learn any given word, it just existed and I uncovered it like an archaeologist might uncover a fossil.

To me, it does nothing to rob the world of the wonder that I experience every day to some degree. There is always more to learn, and that is an incredible fact about our chance at existence. The person I am on this day will never exist again after midnight, the time we have arbitrarily agreed constitutes the end of this day on the calendar. We die a little every day and are reborn the very next minute, filled with the 13.8 billion plus years of cause and effect that preceded our birth. That person is no longer accessible but forever remains a part of the future, regardless of his actions and whether or not he was free to decide.

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