This world is not deterministic. There is no fate. There is no “things happen for a reason.” There is action and reaction. Period. And if there ever was a “grand plan,” we humans would have ruined it long ago. At every moment in time, an infinite number of circumstances, some in whose creation we are accomplices and some that occur randomly, are triggering human emotions that define the nature of the moments to come. Those emotions are the motivators for our actions. When we take action, we influence the outcome of events that are still to pass – else we would not act, right? The thing is that our emotions can be very quirky. In only slightly differing circumstances, the same piece of news can elicit drastically differing responses. The only way you could ever say that the world is deterministic, that there is fate, would be if you could say that the emotional responses of humans can be predicted reliably. Like weather, we can predict that certain things will happen (like rain and temper tantrums), but we have a hard time saying when or where (OK, maybe it’s not hard when it comes to some people.). The point is that we humans and our collective, emotionally-driven actions guarantee against determinism. This is good news.
To say that the world is not deterministic is not to say that there are no laws of nature. There are, and if we isolate enough of the variables, we can see them in action whenever we want. The fact is that there is such a thing as absolute truth; we just can’t observe and/or grasp all of it. So we do the best we can, knowing that the quest to understand our world will serve us well as we navigate it. We call a spade a spade, and we rely upon reason and logic to get us as close to absolute truth as possible. They have worked spectacularly for centuries. Nothing else has ever come close. We can, therefore, anchor our minds with the idea that the best way to discover the truth of any situation is by considering it in a critically rational way, by maintaining a scientific sort of skepticism. And we’re most skeptical of the notion of certainty. There are far too many things for which our explanations are sorely lacking to be strutting around proclaiming that we are certain. The key is that by seeking truth and relying on logic and reason to get us as close as possible, we have a firm foundation from which to pursue our interests in life.
The world’s indetermism is perhaps most profound when it is invoked in pondering what to do with our time here. Many people are hung up about status and background. These people, whether they know it or not, are determinists. They believe rich people lead rich people lives and poor people lead poor people lives. They believe where you come from determines where you’ll end up. They believe that the way things have been is the way they’ll continue to be. For some of them, to struggle against this fate is an act of futility, one that diverts limited resources from the practical responsibilities of life. For others, their ambition is defeated, for whatever reason, and they cling to determinism to justify their failure to achieve. In both cases, these people have missed the boat. Recognizing that the world is not deterministic causes us to reject this line of thinking and replace it with an action, consequence, desire, competence, and opportunity mentality.
If we think of time as unfolding from this moment forward, we can think of every choice we make as having consequences. Most are insignificant, but some reverberate for a while. If we take an interest in truth, we get a serious leg up in accurately predicting events further and further into the future. The fact is that for just about anything you’d ever want to do, there’s information available on how to go about a doing it. And before anyone gets the idea that only sooome people do certain things, there’s information available about real people who routinely disprove this hairball idea. Now, it is true that some information is easily obtained, while some requires considerable investment. We might have to study or pay our dues by doing things we don’t like to get to the information we seek. That’s where desire comes in.
The indeterminist idea implores us to explore our interests to determine how best to take action. We recognize that our actions can impact future proceedings, and our quest for truth has us seeing farther and farther into the future. In short, we are aware of the real power of our actions if we choose wisely and commit to our decisions. All that remains is to figure out what we like. This requires a preference for experience, and an open mind with no tendencies toward judgements. We know right away when we find something we like, so we simply explore the consequences of pursuing it and weigh them against those of our other options. Eventually, hopefully, a dream life appears in our imaginations.
This is where things get good. I would say that a life that allows us to pursue our interests and spend our time with the people we care about is a pretty good template for a dream life. This is a life filled with “want to dos” versus “have to dos.” Visualizing something like this, for the indeterminist, is a substantial motivator. Desire is now properly tuned. All that stand between the desire and the realization of the dream are competence and opportunity. Competence is the practical side of the action/consequence concept. This is where we put our understanding of our world into use. We use the things we know to get to things we don’t know. Sounds a lot like logic, right? This is the investment in information component of the success strategy. Here, we are focused on the deterministic aspects of our indeterministic world. We are students of cause and effect. We are pattern detectors. We are generalizers, and we are synthesizers of random information. Most importantly, we’re goal oriented and we accept the realities that confront us.
If one’s desire is to make a living as a musician, he or she must accept the hours of practice that will be required. If one’s desire is to be a physician, he or she must accept the years of schooling that stand in the way. And, just to be clear, we recognize these hindrances as hurdles, not roadblocks. Every goal can be achieved. It’s all a matter of desire. How much are we willing to pay, and how confident are we in our ability to make the key decisions along the way? Thinking of these as hurdles keeps us optimistic. We need only decide which we will attempt to overcome. Opportunity can play a major role in these considerations.
With goals and the competence to achieve them in hand, we pursue opportunity. We do not await opportunity for we cannot expect it to come to us. We pursue it by understanding it. This is very simple – we study those who have achieved what we desire. Our fluency with the principles of cause and effect will alert us as to the actions that lay ahead. Once again, we weigh them against how much we want what we want. If the desire is strong enough, we do what it takes, create our opportunities, and realize our dreams.
All along the way, we have held tightly to the notion that every moment could go in an infinite number of directions. We have held tightly to the notion that the world is not deterministic. This has emboldened us to consider our actions as supremely meaningful in the unfolding of our lives. Stepping back in awe at our power, we have committed to the judicious use of it. We become knowledgeable and experienced so that we can make the most of our decisions. In a larger sense, we just want to make the most of the time we have. Seeing the indeterminacy of the world is the key to doing just that.