Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Schizophrenic on "Free Will"

We're schizophrenic when it comes to "free will". Generally speaking, we humans want our own way. We don't want to be controlled, we glorify the idea of freedom, and we often rebel even at the idea of listening seriously to the advice of others. We love our independence. But, only to a point.

Most of us readily jettision our facade of self-determination and independence when we face a serious situation where we are clearly unable to cope. When we, or a loved one, become desperately ill or face an uncontrollable peril. When our financial situation deteriorates into desperation. When we have screwed up our lives to the extent that our family, friends, or boss can't take us anymore. When hope of safety or security is gone, we turn to God and offer up our "free will" in exchange for divine intervention. We verbalize our need and what we are willing to do if we are somehow saved. In my view, God has little reason to listen to us when we make this offer.

It's not that God is hard of hearing or hard-hearted. I think God knows exactly what is going on in our lives and how events inside or outside our control can leave us totally frightened or depressed. But God did not give us free will and a somewhat predictable environment for "free". The bargain has already been made - we got free will and a world that operates on fixed natural laws in exchange for the chance to live with those things. Individually, and as a species, God allows humanity to do what it wants to do and enjoy or suffer the consequences. We express our self-determination within this framework. It's God's gift.

People I know say prayers for many things - good health, success, healing, others in need, and themselves. Recently on an ambulance call I heard a woman in mental distress repeatedly call out to Jesus for succor, but no miracle occurred. I've many times heard God invoked for aid in dealing with catastrophes around the world. "God be with them, God help them." I can understand the urge to beg for supernatural assistance, but I wouldn't count on getting any. God's assistance came when each of us was born and entered creation.

Notwithstanding the above, I don't totally discount the idea that God might intervene in creation from time to time. God made it and God can do what God wants to do with it. Miracles may happen from time to time. Revelation may be granted us, and likely has been. Just not on our schedule. And yes, I do pray. "Thank you God, for this wonderful creation, my life, and my freedom. May I reflect the goodness I see in You, may I accept whatever life sends my way, and may I find peace with You when the end comes."

Then again, if things get really bad - "O God, rescue me!". I'm probably schizophrenic, too.


ThomasLB said...

Srila Prabhupada said once that if you're praying for something- "Lord, get me out of this mess and I'll go to church every Sunday"- that isn't love and devotion, that's commerce.

Sonja's Mom said...

I have a brother-in-law that was bragging about the fish he caught. He said that no one was catching any fish so he prayed to God that he would catch some and he did. This was his confirmation that God answers prayer. I think that in this world of war, child abuse, domestic violence, drug use and murder of innocent people in our streets - if all God has time to do is put fish on my nut job brother-in-law's hook then I will not depend on prayer anytime soon.