I for one find the idea liberating.
Someone I love texted me tonight to ask if I believe we have free will. “If life is predetermined,” she said, “then what is life? And how does one cope with that belief?”
After getting over how grateful I was to be asked such a compelling question while folding laundry on a Monday night, my gut response was a mixture of, “I don’t know,” “of course not,” and, “who cares?”
Instead of sending any of those texts, I took a few moments to reflect.
It occurred to me tonight to tell her that to me it seems that no, on a fundamental level free will is not “real”, because free will being “real” necessitates cause-and-effect being “real” which requires time to be objectively linear. Time is subjectively linear — an illusion created by our unique perception of the universe. There are conceivably (and empirically) other ways of experiencing the universe that do not rely on linear time. And so it follows that free will is also a subjective illusion.
I asked her what was so troubling about the possibility of lacking free will, and she said she didn’t know what the point of life would be without it — to which I asked what the point of life is with it.
I don’t know about you, but back when I was fully immersed in the illusion of free will, life didn’t feel so meaningful anyway. I wasn’t particularly fulfilled.
When I embraced the possibility that free will, linear time, and separation are illusions, I started to enjoy life more. I find more and more that enjoyment naturally comes with a closer alignment with truth.
“It feels more like a gift now,” I told her, “or a dream maybe, sometimes a nightmare, like the universe is trying things out in my body.” One of my favorite phrases to describe this is feeling is, “being lived.”
I don’t know that there’s a plan, or that everything “works out for the best.” I have yet to see compelling evidence to support such theories, at least not on an individual level. I’m not satisfied with, “everything happens for a reason,” and that’s okay with me.
What I do know is that well-being is our natural state. How can it not be when we’re all one timeless, formless nothingness anyway?
The more I look in that direction — the more I relax into the way things truly are — the more peaceful, connected, and fulfilled I feel. It just is.
And that, my friends, is all the evidence I need. That is all I need to live a meaningful life of meaninglessness.