Who's driving the bus?
Now that I’m mostly out of The Bardo of early parenthood, I’m thinking a lot about micro choices. My days have more fixed structure and in between the railings of pick-ups and clean-ups, I have some decisions. 35,000 per day, according to the internet.
How many of them do I make from intuition? From obligation? Biology? Short term desires? How many are based on needs that arise from old wounds?
I like to be helpful. It's something I have to watch in my work day. The pull to help someone is strong. If I'm not careful, I could spend all day helping people with *their* to-do lists.
There's a new book out making the rounds called Determined that suggests that we don't have free will, because all decisions are the result of the biology and environment that came before. You could only make the decision you were able to make at that moment in your evolution. This strikes me as a dumb, poppy thesis that fulfills our need to have new surprising insights (That often spread like wildfire and then turn out to be less than true), but it reminds me of something that happened recently.
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I was on the subway escalator and a teenager somehow managed to get their iphone cable stuck in the rubber between the escalator and the handrail. Why he had a iphone cable out, I don't know, but what a great opportunity to say "Gen Z and their technology! Ugh!"
He tugged as hard as he could but the escalator rushed him away and as he realized he was going to lose the cord, his desperate eyes locked in with mine as if to say “You! You can save it. With great power comes great responsibility!”
My limbic system sprung into action and I grabbed the cable and pulled with all of my might. I really put my torso into it, pulling with the amount of force reserved for that old game "Tug of War" we used to play at summer camp before we had smartphones with cables that got stuck in escalators.
It worked. The cable was freed! And because every object in motion stays in motion, I smashed my torso into the other side of the escalator.
And fractured my pelvis.
I've had eight weeks of steroids and bedrest to think about all the opportunities to help people in more meaningful ways that I pass on every single day. We have 35,000 choices per day. And some of them have tendrils that take you into your next future.
I'm actually not sure I had any free will in the matter. That need to be helpful was carved a long time ago and I never in a thousand years thought that could happen. I was destined to make the mistake in some form until I learned to counter my desire to jump into the fray with a little more skepticism.
Maybe our only free will is how we metabolize the results of these instinctual experiences.