Do you believe in Free Will?

This question was posed to me by someone with whom I enjoy thinking. You read that correctly. I’m referring to someone as a person I like to think with.

Now and then we pose questions such as this to each other. Questions that require more than a simple yes or no response. Questions designed to make you think, digging beneath the surface of the question and truly contemplating or even arguing your response. Questions that make you struggle.

This was the most recent question he posed to me:

Do you believe in Free Will?

The arch to his brow and the gleam in his eye warned me of a trap. But the smirk indicated that he knew I’d sense the trap. It’s a game we like to play. A game of words and thoughts and perception challenging and devil’s advocacy.

I tilted my head, matched his expression and said something like, “Sure. But it’s not that simple, is it?” I added something about tabula rasa and imprinting, but that line of thought fell away pretty quickly.

The restaurant we were in was a bit rowdy with a spirited lunch crowd, and we easily distracted ourselves as well with the delightfully tangential nature of our conversations.

You keep looking at that broken clock. But you don’t wear a watch. Tell me why.

Why do you lay your phone face-down on the table? Explain the thought process to me.

See what I mean? Someone I like to think with.

~

Do you believe in Free Will?

My knee-jerk response to this question is, “Of course I do!” But that’s simply not good enough. It’s an incomplete and flawed answer.

Tabula rasa. Do you remember hearing this phrase in school? I can’t remember the first time I heard it, though I suspect it first really resonated with me in college. The concept is usually attributed to John Locke. Though it predates him by a long shot, I think Locke did much to crystallize the philosophy – at least according to his own interpretation of it.

Tabula rasa, Latin for blank slate, as a philosophy posits that each man and woman is born completely blank. Not imprinted upon by some collective conscious or unconscious. No input from past lives or ancestral or astral projections. Blank. We come into this world, blank and ready to be written upon. And the ones with the chalk to write upon our blank slates? Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, teachers, clerks, neighbors, rich and poor, young and old, pure and evil, selfish and selfless. All of our encounters add information onto our slates. And at some point, we receive our own piece of chalk to add to or categorize the information which has now been imprinted upon us. And we also have our very own chalk to print upon the slates of others.

What does this have to do with free will?

Well. I think that we do have free will. To an extent. It isn’t a pure and unaffected free will. How could it be? A man who was born to the ghetto and imprinted upon by all that happens in the ghetto will make different free will decisions than a man born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. They won’t even have the same options to choose from in life. A woman who was born within the confines of a prison and later raised in a halfway house will make different free will decisions than those of a woman born to a movie star or politician. Do they both still have free will? Yes. To an extent.

What if my free will conflicts with yours? What if my free will pushes me to apply for a job working for an NPO in the mental health field (fingers crossed), but your free will pushes you to select someone other than me? What if my free will causes me to text and drive, while your free will lands you on the highway moments before I crash into you, killing your family with my free will?

Let’s look at another important scenario. What if my free will leads me to a movie theater moments before the free will of an American Terrorist takes my life? What if my free will conflicts with yours? What if your free will conflicts with mine?

Is free will a good thing? Yes. To an extent.

Chick at work today reminded me of the free will conversation of a week ago (has it already been a week?). She said:

You know what I need? I need a rich servant. Someone to make all of my decisions for me – choose the right house, lay my clothes out for me every day, set food on the table in front of me at meal times. Someone to make all of my decisions. I’m over it.

She, in essence, told me that free will is burdensome to her. She’d rather not have free will in all instances. But can we pick and choose? We kind of do already, don’t we?

We “elect” government officials to make decisions on our behalf, decisions we believe they’re better suited to make than we are. That’s putting it simply, but that’s the premise, yes? So I’m turning over portions of my free will to them. And in return? They get to inflict their free will upon me, because I’ve given them the power to do so. When I’m up against them, do I still have free will? Yes. To an extent. If I choose to act upon my free will and drive to Baton Rouge to participate in rallies and peaceful protests, I could end up dead at the hands of a cop who has the free will to shoot me for blocking the streets and gathering en masse. That knowledge impacts whether or not I act on my free will, doesn’t it? Of course it does.

It happens every day in every circumstance. I could use my free will to stand up and shout at Queen Bitch, “You’re an evil, filthy cocksucking enema bag, and I hope you rot.” And my supervisor could use his free will to fire me. Not the best idea for me to act upon my free will in that instance, then.

So perhaps the answer is this:

Yes, we have free will. But whether or not we act upon said free will is heavily influenced by factors environmental, biological, social, financial, etc.

I believe that almost everything is a choice. And we have the free will to make whatever choice it is we decide upon. But needs must dictate that we take into consideration the free will of others and how they may or may not act upon theirs. We must also consider biological necessities: I could use my free will to stop my breathing. I could use my free will to never eat again. I could use my free will to deny my body of water. But then we enter moral questions of “right” and “wrong” and “should” or “shouldn’t.”

We could argue about fate, which I believe my thinking partner mentioned as well. And perhaps this should have been more of an essay about free will versus fate. I’m not quite ready for that one yet. Because I have many conflicting views. I do believe in free will. But sometimes shit just feels as though it was or wasn’t fated to happen. But perhaps that’s the Bible Belt in me speaking. Or perhaps its my own observations of the universe and what appear to be certain immutable laws.I believe that is a conversation for another day.

~

I suppose my views boil down to a conflicting dichotomy between free will and determinism. Many Buddhists adhere more toward determinism and shun the more Western idea of free will. This philosophy essentially posits that events in our lives are caused by influences external to our own free will, thus whether or not we have free will matters very little.

While I agree with much Buddhist philosophy (and have much to learn), I think a fully deterministic view is rather bleak and just as incomplete as a full adherence to the idea of free will. Yes things happen to me. Yes things happen toward or at me. But I still have choice. Sometimes, the correct choices are so obvious that they are basically no choice at all. And sometimes the consequences can be dire: follow my own free will or live to discuss it another day? For many, I’d say they wouldn’t even consider that a choice, hence negating their own free will.

It gets rather circuitous, doesn’t it? But the question has been on my mind for a week now. I’m still thinking about it. And I still haven’t fully formed my ideas on the matter. I’d like to do more formal research, dig into the ideas and perspectives of philosophers and great thinkers and, of course, consult my thinking friend.

What say you, peopleaneous?

What say you, thinking partner?

Feel free to use your free will to comment..or not. I’ll use mine to not edit, because I’m actually tired. Wonders never cease.

~

On another totally random note: I’m researching communes in Oregon.

That is all.

Good day.

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Parks & Recreaction ft. Stephanie and the Spiky Caterpillar of Doom (AKA Parks and Masturdation: Buddha and Books)

So. About that four-day weekend. I kinda went crazy, y’all. I did a lot of masturdation. And you know something? I’m a damn good date.

Mkay. Let’s see. (I’m putting dates on these, because this was actually the weekend before last. And I did more shit this past weekend!)

Thursday, April 14: Sassy and Pensive

I’ve already told you about the sassy new haircut I got last Thursday. That was on the 14th. So last last Thursday. And then later, I went to the bookstore, too! And bought books!


Friday, April 15: Date with Deadpool

I’ve also already told you about the Deadpool masturdate  last last Friday, so let’s move right along.

The end credits had such cute (and vulgar) graphics. This was one of the only clear snaps I could get.

Saturday, April 16: Please sir, may I have some more…books?

I found myself lying in bed. All. Fucking. Day. Around 7 P.M., I had had enough. I was angry and disappointed with myself. So I got up, took a shower, and went to the bookstore. I didn’t know what else to do or where else to go, but I knew I needed to get my pathetic ass out of the bed and move. Also. It’s always fun checking out the cute geeks in the sci-fi/fantasy/comics section. Sometimes they’re so deliciously yummy, I want to kidnap them (don’t worry; they’re adults) and do things to them. So uhm. I bought more books. Quelle surprise!

Added three more to the TBR stack!

Looking forward to reading this when time allows. Speaking of time, that’s a “pocket watch” on a chain. I wear it around my neck to remind me that time our time on this earth is finite; it is precious and I must Carpe the fucking Diem. “There’s only lifetime. GO!”

Yes, I spent too much money. This is rare for me. But when I do decide to spend on myself, it usually happens in a splurgy burst. But I at least had coupons for books! So I didn’t do so bad at the bookstore.

I also justified it by using “spending money” I had set aside for the trip that wasn’t. I wanted to treat myself after some personal shit went down. And y’all, I ain’t even done. I’m tired of being in the backseat of my life (unless, of course, someone is back there with me) (even then, maybe I want to drive for a while, damnit).

No, I didn’t buy this. But seriously? Trigger Warning? Sex Inside? There’s sex ON THE COVER. But “trigger warning”? Good fucking grief. Overuse of “trigger” shit drives me nuts. And sex? This is Cosmo, people. It’s gonna be like, “10 things to make your husband less likely to fall asleep after cumming in 3 seconds flat.” or “5 tips on how to bedazzle your vajazzle.”

Anyway. Let’s get to the park, shall we?

Sunday, April 17: Parks & Masturdation, or One if by Land, Buddha if by Trees

This dude has been driving me batshit about getting the fuck outside. I make excuses. He tells me to piss off. I make more excuses. He says so the fuck what. I say, but I hate it here. I want to be in the Pacific Northwest! He says, but you’re not in the fucking Northwest. Get out and live now. I say my foot is broken; he says piss off and go hobble.

So you know what? I fucking hobbled my ass to the park last last Sunday. And unfortunately, I have to admit that the smug fucker was right. I couldn’t do much walking. My foot is legit still broken (had new x-rays and it’s finally and slowly healing, though – NO SURGERY! NO PINS!)

Anyhoodles. Park. I got my ass up. At oh…1 in the afternoon or some shit. But I did good. I went straight to the shower then straight to the park (with an intermission for getting dressed – it’s not that kinda park).

I grabbed my book, Buddha in a Teacup (which is bullshit so far – more later), and did a little wandering. Not much, mind you. My foot wouldn’t let me forget it’s broken. I went first through the greenhouse. It was always my favorite part of the park, though they’ve let it go to shit.

Lemme share some lovelies from that day:

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One of the few pretties in the greenhouse.
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Went down here to read first. Until hornets ran me off.
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Somebody wanted to fuck with Buddha. How dare.

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Hornets drove me to this spot. Much lovelier anyway, once I got away from the noisy geese-feeding hordes.
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Met this little fella, too. Don’t worry. I didn’t let that venomous fucker touch me. But we chatted for a while. He’s converting to Buddhism and came to warn me that this book would likely be shite.

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More lovelies.

That was park day numberus oneicus.

Monday, April 18: Parks & Masturdation, or Making Friends and Influencing People, or A Writing Assignment

Because some little shit couldn’t be satisfied, I went to the park two days in a row. (He also says go listen to High Pass Filter right now!) And I mentioned it to someone else…all like I know I should, but I don’t wanna and he was all but you must go! And you must write something while there! No reading! Must write! These demanding asshats, I’m telling you. I did go, and I did write. But I can’t share the writing yet, as it’s to be part of a collaborative something.

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Lemme share a gratuitous amount of flower piccies, and then I’ll tell you about someone I met. It was one of those moments in life when you just know. You just fucking know. You’re exactly where you’re meant to be.

But first. Flower porn. GASP! New word! FLORN!

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Ahhhh isn’t spring glorious? I fucking love flowers. Can you tell? No? Lemme show you some more.

KIDDING. Just kidding.

Lemme tell you about Anthony now. I had been watching him, you see, crafting the beginnings of a short story based on him. He had no idea, of course. I just saw him and was inspired. I caught a glimpse of him from my table. He was down fishing off this little covered pier thingy. It showed up in the picture up there with my notepad.

I actually snuck an excellent shot of him re-baiting his hook. It was the perfect shot of him in his element, but I won’t even show my face on the blog. Not my place to show his.

Anyway, the more I wrote, the more I felt compelled to meet the real man. Not the one I was making up.

This. What I’m about to tell you about is well and truly outside of even the remotest of my comfort zones. But I felt compelled, in the truest sense. I had to meet this man.

So, for what seemed ages, I gathered my courage.
And then I gathered my things.
And then I walked down that pier.
And then, heart pounding, I spoke,

Hi! Mind if I keep you company for a bit?

It’s a public pier in a public park, but he was alone. Serene. And compared to the weekend chaos at that peer, with all the kids and geese, I figured he was probably enjoying his solitude. His communion with nature.

But he turned to me and grinned, telling me “Sure!”

So I put my things down, and he said he’d seen me writing. Asked if I was in school. Hehe. I said no; I was just writing a story. So he told me about his granddaughter. She writes children’s books, but is having fits getting published.

We chatted for a while. He asked questions about me; I answered. He told me about himself. Turns out we work for the same company. He had been retired, but grew bored after a long relationship busted up and went back to work. In his sixties now, he expressed that sometimes he grows weary of having been in the same place all his life.

Only so many times you can see the same ole thing and not wonder what else is out there that you’re missin’ out on. Ain’t much time left, and I’m past retirement age. Got a brother in Minnesota, though. Sure do love it up there. Why not, right? But it’s a scary thing, so I don’t know if I have it in me.

Why not, indeed.

So I shared a bit of my story with him, and my desire to move to the Pacific Northwest. He asked why there, and I told him how I’d been in love with Oregon ever since watching The Goonies as a kid. And then once I visited the region, I fell even harder and knew a life change was in order.

He told me I’m young and should go for it.

So I pointed at the “pocket” watch on the chain around my neck. Held it up for him to see.

Do you know what this is?

He shook his head, “Naw. Reckon you gon’ tell me, though.”

I popped it open and showed him the watch. “And do you know why I wear it?,” I asked. He just looked at me, expectantly waiting.

I wear it to remind me that life is short. I wear it to remind me that our time on this earth is finite. I wear it to remind me that there’s no time like the present time. I wear it to remind me that there’s never a right time. There’s only right now. I wear it to remind me that as long as I continue ticking along with it, it’s not too late. So I’m moving to Oregon. And you’re moving to Minnesota. And we’re going to make it count.

He smiled a winsome smile, tilted his head and cast his line back into the water.

You know somethin’, young lady? I’m gon’ call my brother tonight. See what we can see.

He looked hopeful now, wistful. I smiled and gathered my things.

Then I shook his grimy bait hand, told him it was a pleasure to meet him and to have good luck with his fishing.

And hey, Anthony? Make it count. Let’s make it count.

He grinned back at me and said, “Never too late.”

~

This post brought to you by:

Serendipity.

Synchronicity.

~

Tomàs, for encouraging me to write even when, especially when, I doubt my ability to write anything worth anything at all. For making me feel worthy, writing aside.

~

Stupidityhole for relentlessly pushing me to get the fuck out of bed and the fuck out of the house. Many. Many. Many times now. I am eternally grateful.

~

Dedicated to Anthony and everyone else who thinks it’s too fucking late. Grab life. Pluck it when it’s ripe; carpe the fucking diem.

~

Coming SoonMasturdating at Happy Hour last Friday, complete with photos of old men flexing in their tighty-whities. Perhaps a recap of tomorrow night’s concert – yes, another masturdate, and then my group Happy Hour this coming Friday night!  Oh. Oh yes. And allergic reactions and moronic recruiters and the relocation conundrum. Stay tuned! You know me. I’ll fill you in in a month or so. (Winky Face, bitches.)

Stephanie Evades Ninjas and Converts to Buddhism within a Half Hour in a Time Travel Capsule

So I forgot to tell y’all about my MRI. (Y’all can thank my dear friend Magarisa for staying on me – not like that ya pervs – to post! Go have a visit. Poke around – still being pervs, I see – do it. Or I’ll cut you.) What on earth can I possibly say that’s even remotely interesting about an MRI? And did y’all even see that title? I mean seriously. What in the name of Cookie Monster does any of that have to do with an MRI? I know; I know. Thou shalt not take the name of thy Cookie Monster in vain, but damnit times are tough and I was desperate. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that one must occasionally utter cookiefanities in order to get one’s point across with the proper amount of vehemence. (Feel free to use that little truth nugget. Go on. Write it down. I’ll wait. Well fuck you, too, then!) (Don’t worry. I don’t know what the fuck I’m on about, either.)

Pope Cookius the Fourthus
Pope Cookius Monstericus the Fourthus. His first declaration was: C is for Cookie. His second was: Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.

Without further ado, let us commence with solving the title/content conundrum.

Commencing to Solve the Title/Content Conundrum

The Players: One Stephanie, complete with all body parts, at least according to last year’s inventory. One attractive middle-aged Rad-Tech, with a warm smile and an ice cold handshake. One MRI machine.

The Place: Are you paying afuckingtention at all, people? I mean, seriously. Why do I even bother? Let me reiterate: an MRI machine in a deep freeze frigid ass room. Seriously, I think they teleported me to Antarctica. In a lake. That was covered in ice. Without a jacket. Because everyone knows that jackets keep the chill out when one is submersed in frozen Antarctic lakes. Duh. Where the hell did y’all go to school? I learned that shit from my esteemed instructor, Señor Cracker Jack Box.

The Setup: Stephanie’s jacked up left foot has been hurting since Jufuckingly. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Stephanie together again. So a lowly peasant woman (a lovely Nurse Practitioner) referred her for an MRI while one of the kings was out playing croquet or shagging his lawyer’s wife or having his pool boy give him a pleasure enema or some shit. Fucking sicko. (Apologies if you get off on enemas.) (Sicko.)

Having an MRI: A Duet That Always Goes South when Someone (ahem MRI) Exposes a Nipple at Halftime

Step 1: Get naked. Really? Y’all believe that? What the fuck is the matter with you? If you got naked at your last MRI, you totally got hospital herpes (aka hospes) and got knocked up by the dude who cleans up the vomit and diarrhea that splatters on the floors in the rooms of the less healthy patients. Yeah. Naked. You hodonkey cockgobbler. Will the real Step 1 please stand up?

Step 1: Get naked. Dudes, what is wrong with y’all tonight? The real step one involves a buttload of paperwork, a hospital wristband (seriously?) and meeting your entire fucking deductible and maxing out your HSA on the seventh damn day of the year.

Step 2: Wait for the rad-tech to show up. Rather impatiently, I might add. Gotta get to work, people! Time is money! Life is short! Why oh why the fuck can’t I be in the forest around Cape Flattery? Le sigh. Oh here he is now!

Step 3: A little more paperwork, and a slight bit of eyeing the forty-something cutie.

Step 4: Doff the hoodie, hang it in a locker. Shoes in the locker. Earrings in the locker. Wallet, phone, keys in the locker. He kindly informed me I wouldn’t need to don a gown and wouldn’t even have to remove my bra. Thanks, doc. Here I was hoping to lose my virginity at prom. Thanks for stringing a girl along. He also said my fillings wouldn’t be a problem. I assured him of my relief, seeing as I’d left my pliers at home. Silly me.

Step 5: Go into the doom MRI room, receive instructions, lie down and have the rad-tech position my legs (very funny, guys) and my pillow (oh yeah, this is getting good now).

Step 6: Squish the proffered earplugs in. (Wait, what? Earplugs? Kinky.)

Step 7: Rad-tech slides in (me, that is, into the machine). I go in all the way to the hip and that’s it. Then he leaves the room, and I get superduper still, as instructed. Stephanie’s totally at ease. “I’ve got this,” she thinks, mentally thrusting her fist in the air.

Step 8: Stephanie embarks upon a slow descent into madness. Let’s peek into her thoughts, shall we? Shhhh, we’ll simply be quiet observers. Leave nothing disturbed (it’s already quite disturbed, as we shall see). Listen and be edified.

I’m cold.
Seriously, I’m really fucking cold.
Stay still, dumbass. You don’t wanna be here all day.
OhmyFUCK how about a blanket, fuckwad? I read about MRIs online, and I’m supposed to get a motherfucking blanket! WHERE’S MY MOTHERFUCKING BLANKET.

Fuck.
Are my nipples hard?
My nipples are hard.
That’s about fucking right.
My bra covers that up, right?
He can totally see my nipples.
That’s it. I will never leave the house again.

What the hell was that?
Did that ceiling tile just move?
Oh my god, that ceiling tile just moved!
What if that’s a secret ninja hatch?
What if they’re here to kill me?
What if they’re here to recruit me?
Ohfuckyes, that’s it! I’ll be the world’s first Fat Ninja!

I’ll sneak up on people, kill them with my ninja stars….then eat them.
Hannibal Ninja! Ninjabal Lecter!
I bet they’re here to kill me.

SON. OF. A. BITCH.
My fucking leg just moved.
You traitorous motherfucker. Just wait’ll we get out of here.Just. You. Wait.
Oh my fuck, my foot just moved!
It’s the drugs. The psychiatrist conspired with the MRI people to make you pay more to take more images because YOU WON’T STOP FUCKING TWITCHING YOU STUPIDHEAD!

I’m really, really, really fucking cold.
I can’t feel my legs anymore.
I’m shivering and I’m gonna fuck up this test!
What would Buddha do?
I know. I’ve got it. (Stephanie begins chanting in her head.)
There is no cold. There is no cold. There is no cold. There is no cold.
You’re on a warm beach. Feel the warm sand and the cool breeze.
No! What the fuck is the matter with you? WARM breeze! WARM!
You’ve ruined everything.
There is no cold. There is no cold. There is no cold. There is no cold.
Fuck it. If this isn’t over soon, all that’s left will be a Stephsicle.

You know what would be really awesome?
If this were a time capsule!
Where would I go, though?
Back in time to kill George Lucas before he can fuck up Star Wars, like Patton Oswalt said?
Maybe just to find out the winning lottery numbers, like everyone else says!
No, I totally wanna have a drink with Winston Churchill. We’d be homies!
Or maybe! Maybe! Back to July and not step off that fucking ledge all recklessly like you did!
I just wanna go back 5 fucking minutes and ask for a motherfucking blanket.

You’re being crazy.
Seriously.
You’ve got to stop this nonsense, or you really will fuck the test up.
And stop thinking about fucking the test up!
Thinking about it will make you fuck it up!
Don’t you know anything?

Wait, I really can’t feel my legs.
Except when they twitch.Oh no. I know what’s happened.
This can only mean one thing.
I’m not in an MRI machine. No, it was never an MRI. It was all a ruse.
It’s…it’s….it’s!
A Sarlacc! And it’s eating me! Legs first!
And I’m strapped in and can’t get out!
Why hasn’t the rad-tech spoken lately?
Oh my fuck, I know what’s happened!
He owes a blood debt to the Sarlacc, and to save himself and his starving children….
He feeds the beast the blood of the innocent!

Sarlacc
omnomnom

Step 9: The rad-tech enters the room, helps Stephanie up and out of the machine and waits for Stephanie to remove her squishy earplugs.

Step 10: Rad-tech tells Stephanie she did such a wonderful job staying still. Rad-tech asks Stephanie how it was for her (snicker). Stephanie replies:

Oh that? I could hardly tell time was passing, I was so relaxed. I can’t believe it’s over already!

Stephanie thinks in her head:

You are fucking insane. Seriously. Certifiable. And if anyone ever tells you to have an MRI again, cut them. Into tiny little pieces and feed them to the Sarlacc. Because fuck this shit! P.S. He totally knows you’re lying. He saw your nipples, too. Whore.

 ~

And that, my darlings, is how not to take an MRI. Or do, because I have to admit…those crazy fantasies were kinda fun (when my heart wasn’t racing because I was alarming myself).

~

Oh yeah. P.S. The MRI showed that my foot is broken in two places. Since July and never healed. No joke, five doctors, eight visits, and two sets of x-rays…and no one could figure out why I’m still hurting. Frankly, none but one podiatrist and my rheumatologist’s Nurse Practitioner believed me. It’s thanks to her I got the MRI and am now be-booted. I thunk around like a bad TV version of Frankenstein’s monster. But at least I finally know what’s wrong and can start to heal…so I can go hiking again. Booyah!