A few years ago, I was watching a physics documentary and they were dealing with the concept of space/time. The two are not exclusive. In fact, time is the 4th dimension, if you travel “back” in space, you travel “back” in time. So in reality, time is all happening right now. There really is no such thing as past and present- only further out in the universe and closer in. To put it in other terms, if you were to be able to travel back in space in an instant, you would see yourself doing things in the past, so in reality you are living your whole life at once. The past, present and future are all happening at the same time.
This all gets pretty damn heady real fast!
But it got me thinking about the concepts of time and how it relates to various philosophical concepts. For instance; in a recent post I mentioned the need to share your art right away- don’t wait for perfection. One of the ideas I touched on there is how time tends to grow our fears. If you are afraid to share your art, no amount of “thinking about it”; will decrease your fear. In fact the longer you spend thinking about a fearful decision, the more your fear grows. The sooner you TAKE ACTION, the sooner you will destroy fear.
Fatalism Vs. Free Will:
This idea of time affecting philosophical concepts has made me stop and consider certain truths. For instance, I think that nihilism and fatalism are both lazy concepts. The idea that we don’t have free will is, to me , a cop-out. People use fate as an excuse to fail, to justify tragic events or as justification for their guilt complex in regards to their success. I don’t believe in fate. It seems self evident that we have free will. If we do not, then all pursuits of progress and wisdom are completely pointless.
Having free will does not imply that we are somehow omnipotent though. We are still subject to our environment and the actions of others. I would say though that more often than not, we are presented with choices rather than directives. We may not be able to control the wind, but we can set the sails.
Back on time:
I was discussing with a friend this concept, as well as the idea of internal and external locus of control. We can take responsibility for our lives when we internalize the philosophy of free will. Applying it to our lives empowers us to create a future more aligned with our desires. Not perfection mind you, but happiness. It also helps us to take advantage of or create opportunities out of unfortunate events.
Let’s look at an analogy of how time affects your free will: Say you are driving a car, cruising along at 60 with the top down and the wind in your hair. Sounds good! Well, suddenly you see a tree has fallen across the road up ahead. You have plenty of time to stop the vehicle. In fact, you have noticed it far enough ahead that you have lots of options; you could slow down, pull over and turn around. You could stop the car, get out and investigate. You could park your car and assist other drivers that may be coming from either direction, etc… But let’s say you just make the choice to keep driving at 60 mph. right for the tree. Pretty soon you have far fewer choices. As you approach the tree at cruising speed your last choice might be limited to a) slam on the breaks and try to minimize damage, or b) die in a fiery end at 60 mph! At the moment of convergence with the tree, you no longer have a choice. Your free will has evaporated as you failed to use it wisely.
The further away you are from convergence, the more control of choice you have. The closer you are to an event, the fewer options you have. This is why people who have a “lower time preference” tend to be more successful than those who have a “higher time preference”. They are leveraging their free will. They are executing an internal locus of control. If you deny your free will, then life will happen to you. Many people have the assumption that philosophy is just a process of mental masturbation with no real connection to living your life. But as we internalize various philosophies, they determine our actions and reactions to the world around us. Even in such simple matters as personal finance we can see how the acceptance of free will allows us to plan and take ownership of our future: “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” ~ John C. Maxwell If we fail to choose to live, our lives will be chosen for us.
I once told my son that I could summarize all good philosophy in two words: “Own it.”
Ok, so that claim may be a huge stretch, but there are certainly a lot of implications in those two little words.
You are running out of time.
The closer you get to an event, the less control you have. Since you can’t see into the future, you need to plan as well as you can for your life that is predictable. The world could end tomorrow, but seeing as it has been around for many Millennia, it probably won’t. There is much about the future that we can predict with a fair amount of certainty. Enough so that we do in fact, have choices.
Procrastinators unite! …later!
Some say that free will is only an illusion, a justification that we create in our brains to explain away events that we cannot explain, or vanity to take credit for what the universe dishes out. And if the physicists are right then maybe that’s true. If there is no past, present or future, then we are indeed both omnipotent and impotent all at the same time. But seeing as, for the time being, we seem to be stuck in the flow of the universe and the perception of time, then it makes sense to live as if time is of the essence, and we do indeed have some decisions to make.
If it is true that we lose control, the longer we wait to make decisions, then procrastination is literally a limiter on your free will. If you want to have the power to choose your life, then the first step is to take ownership. The sooner you do that, the more choices you’ll have! The longer you wait, the fewer options you have, until ultimately, you fail to control your life at all, and you in essence have made a choice- to allow the winds to direct your journey and the sea to overwhelm your ship. I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan on being tossed at the mercy of every storm. I choose more often than not, to sail against the tides and choose my destinations.
I encourage you to accept your choices, and to watch for opportunities. In short, to… own it!
To Live All Your Life.