“I wish I could organize my mind, you know? In like…Drawers. Filing cabinets, maybe. With subcategories. I wish the world were like that too. Because then that way, I could choose how to be. Morals and values would be easy, you would know how to live. This is all clearly ‘good’, and this is all clearly ‘bad’. Do more ‘good’, stay away from ‘bad’, then you will have these reactions and consequences. You will not be hurt, because you chose to do ‘good’. You will not hurt others, because you chose to do ‘good’.
But even then, you wouldn’t be able to choose, really, would you? Even now, choosing takes practice. It takes an awareness that also takes practice. Everything is all about the practice, it would seem. Not about the doing right, or wrong, but rather doing. The how rather than the why.”
I could feel that I wasn’t making any sense, my nerves were on edge. It was important that I convey what I was trying to say, but the words weren’t there. I felt defensive, like the words chose to stay away from me.
“Maybe it is more of an unveiling. Of playing a character and unveiling who that character is. ‘Choose your own adventure’.”
I fell silent. I wasn’t sure if I was making any sense and it felt selfish to take up air and time just to go on on some self-important tangent.
“Every emotion always ends up feeling wrong.” I said, off-topic and more to myself than her.
“I guess…” I closed my eyes, and dared to take a minute to gather my thoughts. Trusting her, in her silence. I held my breath for a minute. The whirlwind of my mind was about to begin, but before I let it take me somewhere else, I closed my eyes and listened to my silence,waiting for that moment –that tiny moment– suspended in air, the moment where I knew what I was going to say, the moment you know is going to happen right before it does, but if you take too long then it’s gone because once you realize the moment is “there” it’s already gone. And right before I felt the moment come, because that’s when you have to seize it, not when you know for sure, and it’s already past, but right before you know for sure it’s coming. It’s a confusing difference, but if you ignore it then you will never know what I’m talking about. And so the moment was there and I breathed in and instead of being carried by the whirlwind of my mind, I was next to it, watching it. The conversation happened as I listened.
“It is not about choosing but about unveiling. You watch who you are.”
“So Free Will doesn’t exist.”
“Well…oh, is that what you meant with the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’?”
“Yes. You can maybe choose what page to turn to, but the book has already been written. There’s only so many endings. So you can maybe have the will to turn the page, but it isn’t like you’re the writer. So someone else is still in control of your fate.”
“What if Free Will isn’t choosing to turn the page but rather to read the book? To see what stories have been chosen for you?”
“So like, ‘if you don’t like it just kill yourself'”
“That’s very morbid.”
“That’s all it ever comes back to. Like, what is the point?”
I couldn’t think of anything else to say, and she was quiet too.
I sat in uncomfortable anxiety at first, unsure of how to proceed. My brain went back to the movie I had watched the day before, about Robyn Davydson, an Australian woman who had crossed half the continent by foot with nothing but some camels and her dog. The true story is remarkable for so many reasons. For me one of the things that stood out was something I had not only been in awe of in Robyn, but also Christopher McCandless (who they also made a book and movie about, Into the Wild.) It was their sense of being able to be alone, with nature, for so long. To not need a partner, their family, a best friend, or a group. I could not imagine or fathom a life where I am not surrounded by anyone, and yet that is probably only because I am so aware of our meaninglessness. So I envied Robyn’s sense of self. Lusted after her radical independence. She needed no one, for nearly a year. Under all the odds, she did what she wanted as she wanted.
“Just imagine…” I continued, at first confident that I knew what I was going to say. But then I was imagining. A perfect world in which everyone goes on camel rides across the desert or going into the wild to discover themselves. But in that “perfect world” there is still theft, rape, inequality. I sighed. She had chosen her own adventure, Robyn. It had felt to me like some people weren’t just reading the book of their lives, but also writing it. I tried to explain that, but the moment had passed and I felt rushed. I frowned and looked at her, then back down. “I never know what I’m going to say anymore. I feel like I start one sentence and it doesn’t ever end. It feels like all I ever want to do is talk, even though I have no idea what I want to say, but I know it’s there, dying to be said.” I said finally.
“Well,” she said, right before inhaling and looking out the big dramatic window next to her, “then maybe you should write.”