Everyone at some point seem to come to the question of free will. Are we just passengers on a journey where our future is mapped out already, or do we have freedom to change and choose our fate?
See what you think in the following parable or – better yet listen to the story here:
Imagine you are a musician. You are the peccussionist in a symphony orchestra in a major city. You are also a phillosopher and lately you have been contemplating free will. Tonight is the opening of a new series of operas and you a dressing up in your finest clothes.
You take a cab to the opera-house, enter, and meet with collegues, who are all modestly excited about the night. You file into the stage with a full house in attendance and find your place and your instruments.
As you settle in your mind returns to the thought of wether or not you have free will over your life. The music in front of you dictates what you will be doing, when, how loud and for how long. Your first notes call for series of triangle triplets at bar 62 and you think to yourself: To prove to myself I have free will, I could decide to not ring this triangle at bar 62. Would that not be an expression of my free will? I don’t actually have to play the notes written for me. And you consider the idea more: The price to pay would be a few raised eyebrows, a comment afterwards by the conductor, perhaps, but you would probably not be fired and life would go on as always.
The conductor arrives. Everyone settles down. He raises his arms and the music begins.
It is Wagner tonight, and the overture swells and turns as you dutifully count the bars. At bar 40 you pick up the triangle, but you are not sure if you will chime at 62 or not. So much of your life is series of have-to’s and must-do’s – it would be delicious this once to have your own will to follow. You are now at bar 50.
The music is like a stormy ocean, the waves are building under dark and powerful clouds. At bar 56 a chrescendo reaches up towards the heavens and as the wave crests and breaks into a million particles you are supposed to be ringing your triangle as the music falls into the abyss. Bar 60. Bar 61. Bar 62…
What will you do?
What will you do in this story?
Don’t read further until you have answered for yourself.
If you are like most people, you say you would ring the triangle.
First of all, if you are a musician, you belong to the music more than to your mind. But more importantly, at bar 62 the moment and everyone around you cry out for a triangle, and you are the only one in the hall who poseesses such a thing – and you are even trained in how to use it.
Here is what I have found: When we have an opportunity to supply what the moment calls for, and especially if no one else can provide it, there is nothing more satisfying that that. You may have free will, but you simply don’t care about choice if you are in the right place at the right time.