Dear Jimmy, on the reverse of this letter is a page, somewhat revised, that I have posted at www.facts4u.com. I included the essay in order to clarify a matter Iím about to discuss.
I remember your granny (my mother) visiting me a number of years ago. She, Smitty, and myself had breakfast over at the IHOP on 98 N. At the time, she asked me how JR was doing, and she expressed concern over his past decisions and behavior. I mentioned that certain things had happened in his life that now affect the way he thinks and acts. She cleared her throat and stated, "Well, that is what you believe, anyway." I was confused over what she had insinuated with her statement. But she didnít bother to clarify the issue. So, out of respect for my mother, I merely let the matter drop without further comment.
During my most recent visit with your granny, I responded to Jamesís (your father) comment about a "choice" you had made to turn left and go to work or right and go to "hell." Her body language and sounds she emitted indicated she was in complete disagreement with me. Her response was so unsettling that it broke my concentration and actually caused me to stutter. (I reckon since women are suppose to keep their heads covered and mouths shut in church, they develop the habit of finding other ways to express themselves.)
It is possible for a person to absorb conflicting ideas about a matter. My son loves me but he has absorbed some of the bitterness others have expressed in my regard. Therefore, he has a love-hate relationship with his father. Another example is some folks believe that a much better place awaits them after death; but none of them want to die. In fact, when one gets sick, instead of shouting Hosannas and dancing in the streets, giving praise to God and praying for the gift of death, they instead whimper and whine and beg God to heal the person and curse him (or her) with as much longevity as possible. Consciously they believe a better place exists after death; but unconsciouslyówhich is where feelings come fromóthey believe differently. And of course, people act moreso on feelings than rationalized thought. (Actually, feelings are probably the rudimentary factor involved in all thought.)
Your granny, sort of like just about everyone else I know, seems to reject certain facts on a conscious levelóin this case, my observations concerning decisions and behavioróbut accept the same unconsciously. In other words, she certainly has ways to express disagreement when I try to present my observations; while at the same time she strives to prevent anything from affecting the thoughts and behavior of Loriís boys in ways contrary to her expectations. That is the same thing as pretending the thoughts and behavior of the boys are free from the laws of cause and effect, while also striving to prevent some causal factor from affecting the boys in ways she finds undesirable. The boysí thoughts and behavior are either free from the laws of cause and effect or they are notóboth cannot possibly be true, since the two theories contradict one another.
I had a friend once who was from South Africa. His mother and father were from India. He was sent back to India for grade school, because there they taught both the languages of his ancestors plus English. He went back to South Africa for high school and college, and to learn his fatherís businesses.
Bonaís (spelling?) father owned three retail menís clothing stores and a wholesale produce market. Bona related one of the odd things about the clothing store to me. Seems the African Natives only made around $90 dollars a month at the time. A popular item at the store was some very expensive derby style hats. The hats sold for $92. The Natives would walk into the store barefooted (or wear fipflops) with tattered shorts and tee shirt (and sometimes without a shirt) and spend over a months wages for a derby. They would then strut out of the store as if the hat was a crown of gold on their head.
I believe wearing the derby gives the Native prestige. It boosts his self-esteem. Having high "self-esteem" is pleasurable but something pleasurable doesnít always equate to high self-esteem.
James got me to wondering about the pleasure vs. prestige factor just the other day. He pointed out someone sucking on a cigarette and coughing her guts out. He then asked, "Why in the dickens would a woman or a man inhale something as noxious as cigarette smoke into her (or his) lungs?" I immediately said, "for pleasure." He then pointed out that smoking is far from pleasurable when a person smokes for the first time. And I concurred, realized, and mentioned that when a person first starts smoking it is usually for the prestige. (To feel grownup or to get status.) But after the body receives pleasure from the nicotine, it adapts to overlook the actual noxiousness of the smoke. And then the stench and sting of the smoke has little or no effect in comparison to the pleasure obtained from the drug. (Just as a side point, the drugs in chewing tobacco are as addictive as the drugs in cigarette smoke.) At that point, the smoker is truly hooked. (I can't help but laugh when I think about how commonly held the belief in free will is, while at the same time people realize addiction is a reality (addiction is a direct contradiction of free will).
PR once told me that he could prove that he had free will. I asked him to explain. And he said that the Ford Bronco he once owned had "like new" mag rims and some really nice big tires. But he wanted some spoke rims with the low profile tires. So he spent a huge sum of money to satisfy his "want." Of course, I pointed out that he did not create the "want" that he experienced. In fact, since I see so many young men "wanting" tires and rims similar to the ones PR bought, I would have to conclude that his "want" was the result of social forces, much as the derbies were in Africa. And fad and fashion don't have anymore to do with freewill than addiction does. Know what I mean?
PR probably assumes that since no one held a gun to his head when he acted, that is proof of free will. He doesn't realize that when the human being acts in predictable ways, even though the ways are sometimes harder to predict than the weather, that is proof human behavior is causally determined. (When PR was spending all his hard earned funds for the prestige of riding on shinny new spoke rims with really "cool" low profile tires, I didn't laugh. I actually felt sorry for him.)
Your granny and PR have something in common. PR knows that he has ADD and is not the brightest light in the universe. And your granny is quick to point out that she is just a simple old woman, so conversations must be kept on a simple level in order for her to understand. But what I am truly amazed at is the fact that PR and your granny both seem to think that they know all there is to know about something as complex as the free will issue.
And now for a few questions:
Hindsight is usually 20/20. This phenomena results in individuals assuming that they could have made a different choice than one previously made, under exactly the same circumstances. Such is belief is an illusion. When you pulled up to that intersection, and you had a choice to turn right (and do whatever it was that cause you to end up in prison), or turn left (and presumably go to work), you could not have chosen other than you did at the moment of your choice. Of course, now you probably can. But now your brain is different. Youíve had circumstances that have had an impact on your way of thinking. Yet, at the time of your original choice, the mindset you possessed, the amount of rest youíd had, any drugs that may have been in your system, the particular state your brainís neurons were in at that moment in time, and many other factors resulted in your choice being inevitable under the circumstances. Even if you didnít have any drugs in your system (or some other factor Iíve mentioned as an example didnít apply to you), that doesnít change the fact that your choice was inevitable under the circumstances.
When you finally realize that your choice was inevitable under the circumstances, you can quit hating yourself. When you finally come to grips with the fact that the choices other individuals have made were inevitable under the circumstances, you can quit hating them too.
This is a matter Iíve spent many years researching and many years dwelling deeply on. I am absolutely shocked at how quickly my insights are dismissed by individuals like PR and your granny. They donít mind asking for my assistance. On a number of occasions both PR and your granny have asked for my advice and/or asked me to help them figure something out. They seem to respect my ability to look at a complex item or investigate a complex issue and make suggestions or offer advice. But when it comes to the matter of free will, they actually seem afraid or resentful of the truth.
Of course, I realize the mindset they possess isnít one they created for themselves. The fault does lie within them. A fault in the earth is a fault of the earth, even thought it is not the earthís fault. See how the structure of our language can cause confusion over the issue? PR has ADD. I do not have ADD and neither do you. The ADD is therefore not a fault possessed by me nor you, but by PR. But it isnít his fault. But it is. See what I mean? My mother is a simple old woman (according to her anyway). It is her fault instead of mine or yours. But it isnít her fault, yet it is. I have bad eyes. You donít. You donít have the fault of bad eyes. I do. My bad eyes are my fault, but they arenít my fault. Get it?
You made a choice to turn right instead of left. The choice turned out to be a fault. The fault was yours. But it was a fault that was inevitable under the circumstances. You could not have done otherwise at that moment in time and under those exact circumstances. But you still have to suffer the consequences. That way you will try to avoid committing the same faulty choice in the future. And maybe someone else who is thinking of doing the same thing will also be deterred.
Some judges have lived enough life and have enough intelligence to realize that the individuals who come before them are products of their environment. But the judges also realize that the individual needs to be deterred (which is impossible if the individual has free will) from future antisocial/offensive acts. And society needs to be protected in the process. Plus, judges are elected officials. So they have to judge and punish in ways satisfactory to the electorate. Sometimes a judge has to really slam an offender to win brownie points with the mad mob, whose votes count. Even if the conviction is later overturned, the judge still got his brownie points in the process.
You can pretend that you could have chosen differently than you did. You cannot be sent back in time to test your pretense. Besides, your theory would automatically become null and void by the fact that you are not the same person as the one who made the original choice, due to the fact that the chemistry and neurological arrangement of your brain has changed. The circumstances youíve suffered have taught you a lesson. You probably have 20/20 vision where your previous choice is concerned.
When your dad got the news yesterday that PR was at the Pea Farm, he actually acted ecstatic. He seemed glad that PR was going to have to suffer some consequences for his unruly behavior while he is still at an impressionable age. Naturally, if the will is free from the laws of cause and effect, then no consequence can effect his "will" or his future choices. (By the way, he also got the news that Mary-Jane and Nicole were on their way to visit PR at the time.)
Oh, and in closing please allow me to state this: nitpicking a paragraph or a couple of lines (which Iíve had done to my writings so many times) does not suddenly nullify the rest of the facts Iíve presented. All the words Iíve stated here can be condensed down to this simple sentence. Free will is an illusion. It is an illusion that is very common. It took 2000 years for the general public to finally accept the fact that the earth is round. It may take another 2000 years before the general public gains enough awareness to realize free will is an illusion.
And thatís just the way it is, this 12 day of July 2006.
As always, Uncle Wayne
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