The Agnostic’s Prayer

Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to ensure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.

~Roger Zelazny, from his novel Creatures of Light and Darkness

Subjected Will

homerThe idea of free will is one often thought and debated about. But I think the concept of free will is often oversimplified. The argument is presented as though you either have 100% free will or you 100% don’t.

In reality your will is neither 100%-free nor 100%-not-free. Your will is subject to more powerful forces and, whether conscious of it or not, you will always make decisions, you will always do what you want to do, under the influence of these other forces. Your will is subject to your desires, and your desires are subject to your nature. You will always do what you want to do (your desires), and what you want to do is always driven by who you are at a fundamental level (your nature).

Some might argue: “I always do what I want? No. I do things I don’t want to do all the time. I don’t want to exercise in the morning, but I still do it.” But that argument assumes that one can only have one desire at a time. I assume you would never want to run into a burning building. No one wants to be burned alive and die from smoke inhalation. But what if your child was trapped in that building? Suddenly your desire to not die in the fire is outweighed by your desire to save your child. There are two desires, but one overpowers the other, and the overpowering desire determines your willful decision. Which desire is more powerful in your life? The desire to spend an extra hour in your comfy bed? Or the desire to be healthy?

One would have to be a pretty big scumbag to not want to save their child from a burning building in order to avoid getting burned themself. One’s nature would have to be seriously flawed to do that. And yet, there are parents who intentionally hurt their own children. Where does this flawed nature come from? Do we all have it?

Because of our fallen nature we are all subject to evil desires, which then lead us to do evil things. Only with a new nature is there any hope we can become good. Only when the old nature dies and a resurrection occurs can a new nature be born.

Some would argue: “I’m already good!” Okay, but compared to who? Compared to Hitler? Or compared to God? The standard matters. Your will is subject to your desires, your desires are subject to your nature. Who is your nature subject to?

Related reading: Predisposed to Rule; On Free Will

 

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy Quotes #21

“The disappearance of war threatens us with the loss of the ability to distinguish between play and seriousness. Let us admit openly: war is the prime example of deadly earnestness. Any action in which I am prepared to risk my life resembles war. Even love sinks to the level of a game when there is no risk of life involved.”

~from Planetary Service: A Way Into the Third Millennium, page 5