Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thinking About The Adjustment Bureau

This afternoon I saw "The Adjustment Bureau" with Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. It was an interesting movie and I enjoyed it very much. It addresses the question of free will versus predestination in an entertaining fashion. It doesn't really have an answer to the question - since it is a question that has bubbled around in human philosophy for a very long time, with a wide variety of answers, some possible, some probable, and some just...there.

It generally doesn't take much to set me to contemplating free will versus predestination. I pretty clearly come down on the free will side. We shape our lives through a succession of choices - constantly, to greater and lesser degrees, at every decision point we reach in our life. I think the best we can do is try and make those choices as consciously as we can and to be as aware of our choices as we can.

Outside of the immediate events in front of us it's almost impossible to predict the specific future. However, it is fairly easy to predict the general future - and predicting the general future is often sufficient enough to become a truly life altering event. The more consistent choices you make, the greater your impact on the general future.

It's hard to discuss this topic without soaring off into the stratosphere. I just tried to write an example, but ended up soaring off, so I thought I would retry it as simply as I can. Let us say you have a choice of A or B as a possible general future. In order to reach that general future, you need to make ten specific choices. If you simply choose "more instances of A than B" in your specific choices, than you will land in the general future of A. The more instances of A you choose over B, the higher the probability that the final outcome will be A. It really is that simple, no matter what you decide A is. We are, or we become, what we feed through our thoughts and our words and our actions - the big choices in our lives are the direct result of the small choices in our lives, so by focusing on the small choices we will eventually realize the big choices.

To often, people abdicate on the small choices, believing that they can wait and simply make the big choices. You really can't. It really doesn't work that way. Often enough you make the big choices in life unaware, you make them as you are making the small choices. Each little thing shapes the big things.

So, if there is any object lesson here (and in the movie), I would say it is simply this - consistently make the small choices and eventually the wait of them will influence the big choice. (In the movie, because Damon and Blunt consistently make the small choices - when the time comes, they realize they've already make the big choice.)

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