So, I got an email from a friend today, asking what I thought of the concept of ‘free will’. Basically I don’t know what I think about free will, other than I’ve heard some cliqe comments about free will in church in my past, and am no longer sure what to think about them. So here is my response to his email, which ended up being about something entirely different, but might be some interesting thought material…
I struggle with the concept of free will too. I mean, basically, us humans did not ask to be created. God apparently ‘gives’ us life. But apparently, in order to not die (that is, participate in the new perfect world that is to come), us humans have to have faith in Jesus (whatever that means). So in other words, according to the story of the Bible, you either follow Christ and live, or you don’t and you die. Where is the free will in that? If we want to live, it appears to me that there is no choice in the matter. Like you say, choose the ‘right’ way, or you’ll get a punch in the face. If that’s the case then no one will choose the punch in the face. Where’s the free will in that?
Dude, the more I learn about theology, the more I think that there are lots of ways of explaining our existence on earth, and explaining the messed-up bit within ourselves. And the reality is that for me, I cannot be absolutely sure about anything. I can be confident and content about certain things, but I cannot be absolutely sure.
What I am confident about is that so often we argue and discuss what we think is the truth about why we are the way we are, and in the end we lose sight of the fact that no matter how much we talk about it, it’s not going to change anything. What I’m confident will change things and affect the here and now is focussing on what is important – love, mercy, justice, peace, tolerance, patience, self-sacrifice…all the good stuff that everyone knows – whether they’ve got a book to tell them about it or not – makes life go smoothly.
At this point then, there’s not much to distinguish the Bible from other ways of life that promote the same things. The thing that gets me excited with the Bible story however is that according to that story apparently God is not only the big creator dude that is in total control of the whole situation, but he’s also involved. He also intervenes and guides and is interested in his creation being all that they were created to be, and is genuinely interested in helping us out. If this is true (and I do choose to believe it to be true, because it gives me strength), then I am happy to bypass my doubts and questions, and say “Thank you God for being involved! Help me to be a person who represents your love in the world”. Because God knows, I need help.
And as for God creating everything, I still believe he did create everything (how he did it is up to science to figure out), and as far as we understand the writer of Genesis, God called everything ‘good’. And we are still all intrinsically good. The problem is, I so often (more often that not) choose not to live up to what God created me to be. I look at the example of Jesus and see the epitome of true humanness, and realise that I don’t have the power within myself to be just like him. Mainly, I choose to be selfish. But from what I understand, giving the creator of the universe a place in my life will allow him to step in and guide me – to be involved. And that’s freaking awesome. It is so comforting, even when I’m not happy about life.
As for having to choose the right religion, far out…I struggled with this…all I can say is this: From what I understand, God is not a dickhead. He’s merciful, he’s fair, and his main motivation is not to take life away but to give it. He is the only one who knows each person’s heart. Surely there is no way that any human being can say that another human being is doomed. Seems to me that if we start doing that then we start acting like God.
I personally don’t like Einstein’s god (created the universe in the begining and set it in motion, and now he’s just a spectator with no contact, watching the chaos). I think God – the God we get to know in the Bible – is fully involved. He has shown us humans how to live, given us guidance, stepped in time after time (check out the stories of the Old Testament – humans do stuff outside of a perfect plan, life goes to poo, humans cry out to God to help, God helps by providing someone to lead people in the right direction, people forget about God’s goodness and go outside of the perfect plan again, life goes to poo, humans cry out to God for help…the cycle keeps repeating itself), but we just keep deciding that we know better than God. I know I do. And unfortunately we’ve all got to live with the consequences of our bad decisions. I see that Old Testament cycle repeating itself in me too. When I’m aligned with him (to me that means calling out to him and thanking him and acknowledging him) I find that I am much more able to be Rob as a true human – patient, kind, not proud, not self-seeking, chilled out, not vengeful, full of hope, perserverant (1 Corinthians 13)…
There are so many things that I still struggle with in terms of how messed up Western Evangelical Christianity is. I fully understand why some people are just so put off by it. Heck, I’m put off by it. I got hacked off in church today because the song leader, after the first song, said that he was disappointed in the congregation and that we should be more lively. To me this translated in my head that we weren’t hyped up enough. Like as if hype has anything to do with being close to God or something…But I stick with this church thing and Christianity thing because we’re all human and all trying to make sense of what it means to be fully human. We all approach life viewed through different lenses of culture and upbringing and tradition and expectations for life, and we’re all trying to get along despite those often blurry lenses.
Life for me is not about being happy. At the core, it’s about having a pillar of faith in something that does not change, i.e., God. Holding onto this faith is often hard, because I continuously want to use my mind to explain everything. But I know my mind. I know how much I don’t know. I know how much even the most intelligent person on earth doesn’t know. I know how much humans as a collective species don’t know, or more specifically don’t want to acknowledge (war, environment screw ups, injustice, etc etc are proof of this, surely). From this faith in something (God) that represents an unchanging and constant truth in the world, I am thankfully able to have joy (is this the same as happiness?) and comfort and peace at all times and through every part of my existence on earth.
Ever since I read this quote by Dean Karnazes, I think I have been afraid…
“It is so easy to live a life that has been scripted for you by others, to fall into the mire of conformity by following a path that society has laid before you, rather than heeding your own unique calling. Comfort, complacency, routine, the path of least resistance, the easy road – these things are the bane of humankind. It is a disquieting moment when you awaken to realise the trappings of conventiality have created a life for you that is entirely different from the one you wish to live.” – Dean Karnazes
This quote will mean different things to different people. To me, I read it as meaning that a life not spent charging overseas and discovering the world and having big adventures was a life not worth living. It meant not being content. It meant not being happy with one’s lot.
But is this helpful? Is this real life?
My personal reading of this quote made me afraid of ‘normal’ life. It made me afraid of letting my guard down and being content. I look at people who are (or seem to be) content with what they’ve got and where they are, and I am envious of their seemlingly intrinsic satisfaction with life.
You see, I think there is something flawed in my reading of that quote by Karnazes, or rather, my interpretation of it. I read it as extoling the virtues of an autonomous life free from outside influences, driven only by one’s individual goal of self-sufficiency and if-its-going-to-be-its-up-to-me attitude.
I repeat, I realise that this quote will mean different things to different people. But for me, this quote reads as a dangerous idolisation of a self-driven individualistic mindset that is focussed on what is best for my life, rather than what contribution I can make to others’ lives.
Funny, isn’t it, that we can read into things what we want them to mean. Karnazes is a dedicated man who has used his fame for awesome things in environmental concern, physical wellbeing. He has raised over US$1.2 million for charitable causes. His is not an individualistic endeavour. It is a vision that draws others into the fullness of life.
When, oh when, will I feel content again?
“Focus on others and things outside of yourself, rather than be caught in a downward spiral of inward self-pity” – a good piece of advice I received recently from a treasured friend.
I am subscribed to quite a few blogs on Google Reader, and today and article about the ‘Pedouin’ family caught my eye. The famliy of five (Mum, Dad, and three small children) are setting out on a 7,000 mile cycle journey across the US from Kentucky to Alaska on a ‘quint’ bike – the whole family on one bike!
Now this is a trip worth watching…
Photo by the Pedouins (http://www.pedouins.org/)
Seven months on from arriving back home…
Just a quick note before you start reading: My journey took me to the extremes of living an alternative life-style. I learned a lot about myself, the state of the ‘world out there’, and the ‘world here at home’. Much of my post-journey musings may seem to be quite harsh, and may sound as though I regret the journey. I certainly do not regret the journey however, and musings like the following represent a new journey to that truely exciting prospect of a ‘balanced life’.
A wee gem of insight for you and me:
When I lived (3 years in Japan) and travelled (2.5 years around the world) on my own, I was always right.
I made decisions, and made decisions based on those decisions…every day.
That is, every day I solved problems.
On my own.
Problems were solved, on my own terms.
And the solutions to those problems worked. The fact that I am alive right now has much to do with my ability to solve problems, and the effectiveness of those solutions.
On my own.
I took risks based on the only perception of reality I knew: my own.
I took risks based on the only perception of danger I knew: my own.
Here’s the problem.
Now I’m not on my own.
I am surrounded by and am growing close to people that think in different ways.
Who solve problems in different ways.
Who see risk in different ways.
Living on my own, living with my correctness (I am alone, therefore I am right), it’s easy to become proud.
With all my supposedly open-mindedness and openness due to travel, part of me has become closed-minded and proud.
Ignorance is bliss, because there’s less tendency to become cocky and proud in one’s percieved state of knowing more about the world than others.
How do I know that I am proud?
Because I get frustrated when others have different ideas and view life differently.
To accept others’ fears, comfort zones, opinions, and ways of life is to live harmoniously in community.
And I think that that is an art.
Community is an art.
Whether it’s a community of two or more than two.
Community is an art.
An art that my solo journey bereaved me of, slowly but surely.
It has been a long time coming, but today I got this email from Guinness World Records in New York:
All fine here and I have good news!
The record has been accepted and this is the text to appear in the certificate, but let me know if there is amendment to make (I just received an email from the RMT department):
“The longest journey by skateboard was 12,159 km (7,555miles) and was completed by Rob Thomson (New Zealand) starting in Lausanne, Switzerland on 28 June 2007 and finishing in Shanghai, China, on 28 September 2008.”
Check the dates and so…
Let me know! And congrats!
So there you have it.
Just goes to proove that even every-day people can get world records too.
I’ll hold back any other comments until I have the actual certificate in my hands…but there you go.
Icing on the cake.