My exploratory expedition into the realm of freedom has begun.
Initially, the idea came from reading Hannah Arendt, “The human condition”, and “freedom” was understood as liberation from the necessities of biological life — from the need to do stuff I absolutely need to do to ensure the smooth running of life on the material plane. I spent a fair amount of time and efforts preparing for this expedition — simplifying, minimising, organising, delegating. Not that the result is an absolute freedom from life’s necessities, but very close to it.
Close enough for me to face the deeper conundrum: what is freedom? What country, friend, is this?
There is a mounting heap of research demonstrating that free will, as we experience it, is an illusion. That the human consciousness — the human mind — is just tricked (or tricks itself) into the illusion of free will, while all the time just following the flow of forces beyond its knowledge and comprehension. That when we experience making a free, conscious decision, this decision has already been made somewhere well below the threshold of consciousness.
But here is the rub:
There is an incredibly intricate and complicated in-built neural machinery busy creating this illusion for us, almost as though Nature, for some reason, saw it fit to go to great lengths in order to trick us into the experience of free will. If it hadn’t, the very concept of freedom would probably have never arisen in human languages — we would have never had even the dream of freedom, let alone the thing itself. A mysterious arrangement, especially because, for all we know, it makes the whole system much less efficient (for example, there would have been no procrastination without free will).
I’ve been contemplating this mind-boggling arrangement for these last few days, my first days in the realm of freedom, and here is what it reminded me of.
Throughout my early years, I was sure that I was making my way to my nursery school every morning completely on my own, free and fully responsible for my own actions. Only much later did I learn that my parents had carefully monitored my progress from home to school all along — that my early freedom and self-reliance had been an illusion.
An illusion designed for me to learn how to be on my own, how to bear responsibility for my own actions.
Could it be, I wonder, that something like that is going on behind the mind’s illusion of free will?