The actuality behind your free will and you
By Aidan Mouellic, Contributor
The idea of being in control of your life and where it will go is attractive. Surely we feel in control; not many people would openly say that they aren’t—unless you ask someone who is being tortured. For the most part, we all believe that we’re exercising free will over our lives. But we’re not.
We don’t have the control we believe we have. You may be thinking of a lot of counter-arguments right now. You may be reading this article while on a school campus, having made the decision yourself to be where you are. But if you stop and ask why you are here and what led you to choose this path, it becomes difficult to answer.
Staying on the example of our chosen scholarly path, let’s say you’re studying biology because you enjoy it. Why do you enjoy it? Once you remove all of the factors, it becomes apparent that perhaps we are not in control. A lot of what we enjoy and prefer seems to be out of our control.
We are who we are for many reasons. Where we are born and who we are born to determines a lot of how our futures will turn out. We have no say in this. In essence, the biggest and most valuable lottery is the one that determines where you are born and to whom.
As infants, it’s pretty obvious that we don’t have a lot of free will. Our parents, stomachs, and diapers dictate much of what happens to us, but does this change when we are able to walk and talk?
On the contrary, the older we get, the more evidence can be gathered to indicate how little control we have over our lives. Our thoughts, feelings, and actions may be seen as carefully calculated actions undertaken by intelligent beings but, scientifically, it’s just brain chemicals bouncing around in our heads telling us what feels good and what doesn’t.
If you want to test this, go take some sort of drug, such as MDMA, and see what you do. Chances are your actions will be much different from what you would normally be doing. If we have free will, why is it then that people do things that they regret while under the influence of certain drugs? It’s because the drugs influence your brain chemicals, which then alter your decisions and thoughts.
Our brains are what control us. It’s the most important organ in the body and there’s still a lot we don’t know about it. I know that it creates the illusion of control, but if that were the case then people wouldn’t get addicted to cocaine and McDonald’s. The brain controls us, not the other way around.
It sounds rather silly to state that we are at the mercy of our brains and have no control over anything. Nothing is black and white, and I’m not trying to say that life is like an ‘N Sync music video where we’re all marionettes. I’m simply saying that we don’t have as much say in the outcome of our lives as we would hope.
There is a famous quote from H. Jackson Brown Jr. that says, “When you can’t change the direction of the wind—adjust your sails.” Perhaps it’s not worth fretting over how things will end up, because whatever is happening to you is just the way it is, and perhaps that’s the way it’s meant to be.