This might seem weird at first when you think about it but at the same time I can guess that it sounds very familiar. I suspect that in every human being there is this little doubt about their reality and a knowing of the truth. This truth is really bizarre so we get conditioned to repress it.
Let’s consider the problem of choice. When you are thinking about two things that you can do, you are making a choice. When you choose one thing over the other, you make a free choice, this is free will. For example the life long problem of whether to attach the toilet paper so it rolls out from the bottom or from the top. I prefer it rolling out from the top because then I can spin it from the top and it rolls out nicely, but some people like to pull it from the bottom…
So this choice and any other you can think about is YOUR free will?
Well actually no. This is the weird part.
When you are considering two things what is actually happening is – you are observing the act of decision making made by your brain. It is not YOU that is making the decision.
When you have made a choice, what actually happened was you observed the act of choice made by some neural network inside your brain.
Test your free will with this experiment. See your mouse lying on the desk? Decide that you want to pick it up in the air and then do it. Please do it now.
Now what happened? Was that your choice or were you simply observing “someone” deciding to pick it up and then actually seeing your hand picking the mouse?
How can you distinguish between you making a choice and YOU OBSERVING the choice? This is an important question.
There is no answer to it, there is no way to make this distinction, I have thought about it long and hard, surprise me with an answer to it. Scientists a long time ago observed that any kind of action or decision is done 0.25ms (I don’t remember the exact number) before reaching consciousness. That means consciousness was not involved in the act itself, it was merely being… conscious of it, that’s all.
This is why everyone has doubt whether they control their lives. However insignificant that doubt is, it is there. That is because you intuitively sense that what you are doing isn’t really controlled by you. Children know about this more than us. If you ask a kid why did he do something he’ll just say “I don’t know”.
-Why did you pee your pants!? -I don’t know!
And you just wanna slap the bastard! But actually that’s more true than our rationalizations. See, when you say I have free will because I can decide at this moment that I can for example jump up in the air, it is just your faulty reasoning. There is no deciding on your part, because you have nothing to do with the part of your brain that does the decision and action.
The truth is, you are a distinct entity, probably a separate brain circuit whose job is to observe stuff going on in the brain. The brain needs a tool to look at itself. When an animal brain during evolution reaches some point of complexity it needs to perform maintenance operations on itself. It is necessary for the whole system to work correctly. 100 billion neurons is a lot of neurons and they have to act in cooperation with each other! If not the organism dies and so do the neurons and brain. So the brain must have a way to connect everything together and to fix bugs. It needs a MIRROR to look at itself. Just like you walk up to a mirror to fix your hair because that is the only way you can know for sure you have done it correctly. You need feedback. Consciousness is feedback for the brain. YOU are the mirror of the brain.
So what is your role exactly and why does it seem that it is YOU that is controlling this organism?
You observe whatever part of your brain is most active at the moment. Consciousness is filled with the activity of dominant brain circuitry. If you need to shit really badly, that’s all you can think about yes? You observe whatever is happening inside the brain and body. In order for this organism to work correctly you need to observe everything, including decision making and acts of “free will” made by the brain. The brain needs to see them inside the mirror so that it can fix it or change it. You observe, that’s all you do. And you do this all the time, even when the brain and body are sleeping. You are conscious of dreams because the brain is making fixes and optimizes at night. The fixes done in the dreams will later manifest themselves in your everyday life, that’s why it seems that sometimes you have future visions while asleep.
You just observe, like a person sitting in the cinema. This is why Zen Buddhists say that everyone is enlightened, they just don’t know it. There is no difference between a so called enlightened person and a “normal” person. Because whether you know this truth or not, you are still doing your job. You are observing.
There is no real practical part of being enlightened. So there is also no practical point in this article. Why did I write it? Because this is extremely funny to me.
Well I guess there is a message here. When you see how funny this is, you’ll stop the effort. Your life will be WAY easier, cause it really isn’t about you anyway. You won’t take everything personally and you’ll start enjoying it more. Like a ride in an amusement park. So get over it, accept this truth. It is funny once you get it. Or forget what I just wrote. It’s a joke.