Saturday, June 4, 2011

Does Our Lack of "Free Will" Doom Relationships

The issue of whether or not humans have "free will," had always seemed a fascinating philosophical debate, although irrelevant to daily life. But the other day, I was glancing at the celebrity news headlines, while standing in line at Walmart, when the true significance of this subject struck me.  Lindsay Lohan was in or out of jail.  I forget which.  Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston's wedding  was on or off.  So-and-so was marrying or divorcing for the third or fourth time. 

The problem is that within western philosophical debate, either we have free will or we don't. The Eastern approach, in which "free will" is seen as the goal of enlightenment, may give us more usable insights into human behavior.   That is, we attain "free will" through training ourselves in meditative and spiritual practice, in the same way that we would go about practicing a musical instrument in order to become a more proficient musician.

Ordinary consciousness, or the "untrained mind"  operates from habituated behaviors, knee-jerk reactions to emotional stimuli, and pleasure-seeking addictions. Professing love for someone, even if we believe it, when we utter the words has no staying power, because most of us, most of the time, have so little control over our emotional and physical impulses.

Our partner says something hurtful and we hurl it back ten fold. We're bored or in need of an ego boost, so we ditch our current lover or spouse, for a new one, who promises to give us what we want. Of course that promise wears thin after a while, because the new partner has as little control over his or her impulses as I.  That dizzying cycle continues until our time runs out, physically and metaphorically.  Of course the irony in all this, is that those who spend the most time training their minds, live in monasteries and don't cultivate intimate relationships any way.  Oh well. . .
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