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Sunday, 8 July 2018

Do you have a choice?

I am halfway through this brilliant book I started yesterday; The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. It presents the kind of philosophy I am trying to emulate and practice; rational pragmatism, positive nihilism. That we should only care about things that are absolutely important to us, and that it's important to check what we value because that will determine how we react to things. That trying to be 'positive' actually reinforces a sense of inadequacy, and that it's better to accept that life is full of shit and you can work through your negative experiences to find happiness. Struggle is what creates reward.

For a while now I have considered myself a determinist. Determinism is the philosophy that every event is pre-meditated due to a cause-and-effect thread that runs throughout the universe. Everything that is going to happen is the direct effect of something that just happened.

I do believe this, but hard determinism also eliminates free will. In a rational democratic society of sentient apes, the elimination of personal responsibility and accountability could become problematic. How can we convict thieves and rapists if their behaviour is the direct result of circumstances out of their control?

Truthfully, I believe that free will is an illusion created by moral philosophers in order to stop humans from annihilating themselves. Scientists have stated that free will is an illusion; there is no evidence for it. Humans are sentient, which is why we're at the top of the animal kingdom. We have the ability to think about our thoughts, and reason with ourselves. This gives us feelings of control, and a sense of power over our lives.

Back to the book. I just finished the chapter 'You are always choosing.' Technically, we're not, but we 'feel' like we are. Therefore free will doesn't really matter or not; if we as humans feel like we're in control over our actions, that's all that is important. If we feel like we have free will to some degree, then that's all that matters. Whether free will is an actual thing or not is not really relevant.

So on that basis, we are always choosing. We are responsible for our actions - to some extent. I think that is very important to note. If I, a recovering alcoholic, drink a bottle of wine later this evening, I chose to do that. That was entirely my decision. I could have stopped myself, I could have called my sponsor, gone to a meeting, meditated, whatever. However, what follows when an alcoholic drinks is a loss of choice due to a chemical illness. This is what is known as an involuntary response, which I am sure we are all familiar with but sometimes isn't taken into account enough, especially when it comes to areas such as mental health.

If someone has bipolar disorder, they can't just 'stop' the way they are behaving. It's out of their control. The manic and depressive episodes are not something you can randomly turn on and off, because humans don't have that kind of power. However, what you can control is how you decide to deal with your illness. You can do nothing and complain that the world hates you and life is so unfair and kill yourself. Or, you can go to the doctor, go on medication and seek professional help, and work to maximize parts of your life that you enjoy. You will still struggle and things will be tough, but at least you will be managing your illness rather than wallowing in it. You will be taking responsibility.

Let's consider another scenario. A guy is really drunk and horny at a party, and he is with a girl who is also super drunk and things are getting steamy. She gets so drunk she passes out or is barely conscious. Contrary to what some feminists may think, most guys would freak out and hopefully call a cab or get the girl's friend to take her home, or take her home themselves. A select few may choose to sexually assault the girl. Same scenario, same circumstances, things happening out of your control; you just chose to respond differently.

And let's say that poor girl was raped, and then had to live with that. Obviously that is an unfortunate circumstance which was not at all her fault and of course she is a victim. However, she could let it ruin her life, or she could allow herself to feel sad but then seek help and gradually move past it. Another one of the chapters in the book is 'You are not special.' Every single person on this planet has to deal with problems everyday. Problems are all relative; a rich person trying to calculate their tax returns and settling how much money their ex-wife will take in the divorce clearly faces different issues to a starving kid in India with no parents.

BUT while the problems are different, the feelings are the same. Problems create feelings of anxiety, depression, despair, worry, stress, and so on. But it's how we deal with these problems and move past them that determine our quality of life. When something awful happens to you, you should absolutely acknowledge it and allow yourself to feel pain. I was dating this guy a few months ago and was devastated when he broke up with me out of the blue. However, I've moved past it, because I know it isn't worth being hung up over. This isn't me being 'optimistic', it's me being realistic and taking responsibility for my actions and emotions. I could get drunk, message this guy several times a day and moan about how I'll be alone forever. Or I could move past it and continue with my life and all the stuff I'm achieving right now. (Like this awesome book I wrote which you should totally order:

Cry, be upset, but then dust yourself off and move forward. Illusive or real, choice is something we all feel. Make your choice and stick with it.

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I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
I've also published three YA fiction books and two poetry volumes. To check em out, copy and paste this link into your browser: