Sunday, December 12, 2010

Freedom Is No Mistake

I was walking down the dirt road the other day, spitting tobacco at beetles as I went and wondering when the band that changed everything would finally be available on iTunes, with Mimir, my pet buzzard on my shoulder, when I saw a flier that someone had stuck on the windscreen of my John Deere that I'd left out on the back 400. The flier said,
Friend!
Do not believe the
LIARS!
You have a
CHOICE!!

Will it be heaven or HELL?

Come to the FREE WILL Church and hear the truth.

"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you FREE."



Well!
That certainly was a slap in the jaw, or a pull of the beard. I hopped on my Ducati and told Mimir to wait for me at t'house, and I drove down to that church. There was no one there, so I went off to the manse of the pastor. I had to park the motorcycle up on the road to avoid the mud down by the manse's lot, but I went up to argue with the pastor that those who say that there is no freedom might be mistaken, but they are certainly not liars, as the lie requires a prior foreknowledge of the falsity of the statement being made and a mendacious intent, and that he should immediately disavow and refudiate the flier or amend its language.

He, though, would do no such thing. You can imagine my astonishment, but he went on to argue that the proof of absolute freedom was such that any man (not woman, for women, lacking souls, lack the capacity to morality -- I had to applaud the bravery of his Thomism in that regard) who suggested a lack of freedom was a liar. I shall reproduce his comments.

"Chance, chaos, and entropy are facts. No straight thing, whether a line or a motion, is possible in human life. From our earliest moments of life, we recognize that our world is lapsarian, that our efforts are inadequate, that we either must invent or recognize the ideal world to have satisfaction. No monument wins against time, and nothing set in motion remains, nor anything at rest, either. All is impermanence, and yet impermanence due to chaos, noise, error, want, failure, perversity of nature or crookedness of nurture or amalgamation of composition. We wish for good luck because we need good luck. These truths are so elemental that we assume them and never speak o them. We wish we could wish them away. How, then, can we possibly live in systematized, ordered, and determined worlds when even as simple a matter as boiling water is subject to entropy? No.
"And, supposing that a person said that we are all, indeed, un-free in soul and free in body, then howso shall we have such a thing? In what form might the soul be chained where the body is not? Were creation worthy of God's will if it were all shadow play? This seems unlikely to the point of insanity.
"I might not be able to prove that a man's will has acted freely, but he can himself not deny that it has not been placed in subordination."



I confess that he argued with heat. After he offered me a cordial and the two of us spoke for some time further about the metaphysics of system versus actor, we parted on good terms. I was able to persuade him to change the tone of his fliers in the future, although not to change is view on the fundamentals.

I came back and talked to Mimir about the whole thing. He had been hard at work. He said that there had been a dead raccoon on highway 280 and a fawn on 151, and the crews were backed up for hours clearing away the bodies. Traffic was getting in the way, and his people were going as quickly as they could, but they were starting to run out of capacity. I told him that I always respected the work he did, but there was a time for such recreations and a time for serious work, like philosophy.

"The problem, I believe," Mimir said, "is one of definition. He is struggling with one meaning of 'freedom' against many other definitions of freedom. He battles the Calvinists with Heisenberg and Maxwell, of all things!"

I agreed. Indeed, I suspect that there is a big difference between being free and being disorderly. Freedom requires volition, and chaos requires frustration or agnosticism. It is non-thoughtful, non-affective, non-spirit, non-physical, and it isn't even properly spoken of as a force as much as a thing all forces do. Not being able to be what we want is not the same thing as being free; in fact, it is somewhat the opposite. Our imperfections and imperfectibility may not prove our damnation, but they don't quite make us free.

The Gnostics looked at the flop that is life and decided that we've got to jump up from bodies to pure spiritual sparkiness, where the chaos won't apply and a fresh rule book can be written by those in the know. That's the inverse of the Pentecost, where the spirit comes down and enflames the flesh, flashing out and bringing the perfect down to the imperfect through revelation and inspiration. However, neither one of them can answer the question of who gets to go or gets gone to. Neither one of them can answer the question of whether the people were free to hear or foredoomed.

We can all agree, indeed, that we're inadequate, that chaos happens, but we can't agree beyond that because, quite frankly, we can't see beyond that. Anyone who says otherwise is guessing, and it's just awful to go around calling people names on the basis of a guess.

2 comments:

Zoot Horn Rollo said...

Condolences to thee, brother, on the passing of Don Van Vliet. As it says in the Book of Jeroboam, "The dust, it blows forward, and the dust, it blows back."

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