Thursday, November 18, 2010

Work of Art or Work in Progress?


I love a good philosophical discussion. Especially when it is a pure exchange of ideas versus an attempt to come to some conclusion. Add in tea, smart-as-a-whip women, and some chocolate, and I'm in Heaven.

The other day we happened to be discussing a book we were all reading, despite the fact that this gathering of women is in no way, shape, or form a book club. One of the ladies wondered aloud how the writer could possibly reconcile the idea of free will with his notion that there is some predetermination of outcomes.

Back in my college days, before I truly discovered philosophy and was strictly a Science/Math/No Such Thing As Woo Woo Spirituality kind of person, I would have laughed in the face of predestination. I would have taken the definitions of both free will and destiny to their most concrete meaning and decided in favor of free will, assuming that the two could never co-exist. Never. Ah, ah - don't even try to take the conversation any further. Lalalala I'm not listening!

Predestiny scared the crap out of me. The idea that I couldn't be in control of each and every moment of my own life frankly sucked. The notion that some of the nasty things I had lived through were actually supposed to happen to me was unfathomable. Even considering the possibility that I couldn't make my own decisions and effect change gave me hives. As I have grown and lived, suffered and triumphed, read about and experienced things that I can't explain using laws of matter and physics, I'm not so sure anymore.

Kristine entered the discussion by talking about her parents' 50th wedding anniversary and went off on a tangent about not booking a photographer to take any family pictures, despite having a conversation with her brother about it months before the event. Of course, it turned out that as the entire family was assembled in one place celebrating, a stranger came by, engaged them all in conversation and offered to take their picture. Of course he was a professional photographer who proceeded to take hundreds of shots of them all, burn the images to a CD on his computer on the spot and present them with the finished product before the party ended.

So it occurred to me to wonder whether this was an example of precisely what we were dancing around. If Kristine is one thread in this tapestry, running through at some angle she can't comprehend, one part of this work of art she doesn't have the perspective to appreciate, does she have free will even as she is bound by the borders and edges and the threads that surround her? She can dive down beneath an adjacent thread and come up an inch or so farther down the line.

Before I risk becoming too nebulous, let me put it this way: Say Kristine and her brother had booked a photographer for their event. If it turns out that this other photographer was "destined" to be the one taking the family photos, it is possible that despite the first booking, the original photographer gets sick or cancels for some reason. In that way, it was through no action of Kristine's that the events occurred, but the eventual outcome happened because it was supposed to. Is it just the stuff of fairy tales and horror movies that we can't escape our destiny or is it possible that even as we exercise our decision-making skills according to our beliefs and knowledge, there is some larger framework that exists that will, in some subtle way, exert itself to effect the outcome that needs to happen?

I used to need to know the answers. All of them. I used to think it was possible to find them - that they existed out there somewhere and I simply needed to discover them. Now I accept that, as one thread in this vast tapestry, it is my connections to others and the ultimate picture that we all make together that are more important. I don't have to know all of the answers and I can still exercise my free will to make decisions for myself and my family and know that if I dip when I should have flown, it will all work out in the end and the end result will not suffer.

6 comments:

Jess said...

Sounds like a lovely gathering. :) This hits home a bit right now. I am trying to let go of the need to over-inform myself about decisions and make decisions in a more trusting/intuitive but still intentional way.

Wanda said...

Or what if this photographer is the one that Kristine would have hired? Or what if it doesn't matter who the photographer was but that there was one there to do the job?

I am more of a process theologist/philosopher. Being a mystic, I believe it is all about the relationship. Even having this guy show up and take pictures, they could have shooed him away. However, when I make a decision and the divine provides another opportunity, I often am willing to listen and participate in a different way.

I think it is more about Free Will than predestination--but Free Will in relationship, not in a vacuum.

Carrie Link said...

You're a no accidents girl, I know you are.

Kathryn Grace said...

So true: "It is my connections to others and the ultimate picture that we all make together that are more important," which seems to be partly what Wanda is getting at too. I appreciate so much her comments, "when I make a decision and the divine provides another opportunity, I often am willing to listen and participate in a different way," and "free Will in relationship, not in a vacuum."

Kathryn Grace said...

And may I say what a pleasure it is to read a blogger--or a reporter, for that matter--who knows the difference between affect and effect?

Deb Shucka said...

Wow, that must have been some conversation. Your thinking here is so interesting to read. I agree that it's not the answers that matter so much as the questions we continue to ask that shape our journey.

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