One time I had a debate with a drunk man. My father always told me, “If you argue with a fool, what does that make you?”. But I still couldn’t resist, I get pulled into philosophical debate so easily.
His position was that we are all chemical engines. Our reactions are programmed responses based on our previous experiences and inherent wiring.
He argues that if you are driving down a road and someone cuts you off, you have no choice but to get angry, it’s a function of our behavior. Road rage is just a buildup of these experiences forming into action.
I argued that we all have choices to make, and whether to get angry was one of those choices.
It also seems a matter of perspective. In other words, how you interpret the situation.
In my argument I referenced a time, years ago, when had been cut off by someone. As I looked into the car I realized it was my neighbor. I knew my neighbor well and he was a good person. So from this knowledge I inferred that there must be a good reason he was in a hurry and that I should not take it personally. Anger left me and compassion entered the picture.
This lead me to the next level of thought, “What if I treat everyone as my neighbor?” What if I were to believe inherently that all people are “good people” and there is typically some good reason for their behavior. It would let both them and me off the hook. They would incur grace for their actions, and I in turn would not find myself taking actions personally, as the cause was outside of me. Ergo, I have chosen, through logical inference, not to get angry.
But this is one of the key benefits of, and why I enjoy so much, having a philosophical conversation, it gives one time to deduce the best reasoning and outcome. It’s not always simple to apply it to your day to day life. This is why awareness has become so powerful for me. Tying awareness into experiences can lead to intellectual responses instead of emotional responses. So when I am capable of applying awareness to a situation I can identify it more clearly as what is really happening and not get bogged down in a knee jerk emotional reaction.
But awareness and reasoning takes energy and now I am a parent. As a parent I find that most days tend to wear me down to the nub. When run down and exhausted there is little room for reason and you fall back on baser instincts, emotion and default reactions win the day. And the debate resumes.
Are we chemical engines? Or are we mystical avatars?
Is everything that we do really the result of chemicals interacting with each other through a set of logic paths that are preprogrammed? While the pathways are complex and not always obvious, are they actually predictable and consistent? Could you, if you studied someone long enough, predict their every action and response to stimulus?
Or are we something more?
Are we actually the puppet master pulling the strings from the outside? Knowing that the puppet is likely to behave in a certain way, but capable of making decisions against default action? Can we choose to be other than we have previously been?
Is it all a matter of perspective? Is this debate really meaningless but the outcome crucial? Is the most effective means of being better, simply believing we are better?
Does establishing in your mind the belief that the world is not out to get, empower you to not be gotten by the world?
If this were the case, this would make awareness the most powerful tool mankind has ever discovered. This would mean that when we are aware of our reactions we can respond as we would choose, instead of taking the path of least resistance, we are actually empowered as the avatar instead of mindless as the machine. So awareness give us the power of decision making.
Who will you be today? The machine? Or the avatar?