Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An interesting take on Free will and Destiny

What if ...........

The most common indulgence of the thought process. What if I had not married this partner? What if I had studied law instead of Medicine? These are the journeys undertaken by our imagination had one taken the other road when at the crossroads of life. There apparently is no limit to this rather futile extrapolation into the past. It would lead to the most bizarre point of “What if my parents were not to have met at all?” The rational conclusion after such preposterous deliberations is that there surely is some deterministic programme that effects itself to unfold our existence and what follows.
If one were to keep extending the “what if” thought process, the creation of the Universe would also be just one of the limitless possibilities. The conditions required for creation of the universe are so specific and exacting ; like the mass of the proton, the value of gravity, and all the rather critical values of the various forces. This line of thought inspired the now famous anthropic principle in 1973. The Participatory Anthropic Principle states not only that the Universe had to develop humanity(or some intelligent, information-gathering life form) but that we are necessary for its existence, as it takes an intelligent observer to collapse the Universe’s waves and probabilities from superposition into relatively concrete reality.
This principle shifts the focus to a program that deliberately effects creation. If this determinism was vital to creation itself and also to the past( like our parents meeting inevitably) then it stands to reason that it must also play a critical role in unfolding the future. This brings us to the oft debated issue of free will. Do we truly exercise free will in our lives ? Is the future also predetermined? Logically , for any event to take place, there are so many factors out of our control that must complexly interact to yield the expected output. As is oft quoted “ Man proposes and God disposes” At an individual level, what makes one think and then work in a specific direction? The so called free will may just be an illusion when in reality, the thoughts and actions gravitate towards a pre-fixed path. This line of thought surely deals a body blow to our ego. When viewed very dispassionately, one cannot help but realise that even being alive tomorrow is a presumption. Free will therefore is also based on certain assumptions and conditions. Therefore, unconditional free will may not exist . The free will that we so pride ourselves is actually restricted to making a choice within the framework and circumstances that are tossed up by factors beyond our control.
All our thoughts, actions and decisions are based on the identity that we have generated as we course through the journey of life. The destiny that we talk about is of this identity. The desire to know what is going to happen tomorrow stems largely from a deep sense of insecurity that is fuelled by the ego. Is the identity that is purely a subject of perception our true self? The true nature of our self is merely consciousness that observes. Time and space are apparitions necessary for the unmanifest consciousness to become manifest as sentient beings. Past present and future are correlates of time. They are imaginary compartments that help establish a chronology.
They are as much a figment of the imagination as time itself. The free will that we talk about remains the free will of an imaginary entity and its ego. Whether the future is scripted or not becomes a moot issue if the true nature of the self becomes clear- a speck of that unqualified consciousness that exists beyond the apparitions of time and space.
Dr Deepak M Ranade
(The author is a consultant

Friday, April 15, 2011

Moving On in Life.

Moving on – The testimony of Life

A wise man was a participating in a conversation. He contributed by telling the group a joke. All those present were highly amused and appreciated the humor. After a while, he narrated the same joke again. This time the response was more tempered. After some time, he repeated it. . There was hardly any response this last time around and people were, in fact, slightly irritated. When he told the same joke yet again after a few minutes, one of the persons in the group retorted “Why are you repeating the joke so often? It now ceases to
\amuse us and we are getting irritated”, The wise man responded-“ If the same joke ceases to amuse us after a couple of repetitions, why then does the repeated remembrance of something painful elicit equal or sometimes higher degrees of sorrow and resentment?”
The way a person deals with unpleasantness in the past influences largely, his .attitude and approach to dealing with the present. Carrying too much emotional baggage certainly does not augur well and could affect the person’s self-esteem embarking on a self deprecatory behaviour. He is convinced that he is at the root of all the misfortunes that have befallen him and will mope and indulge in an unforgiving criticism of himself. The already low levels of self esteem ebb even further and makes the person very sceptical and cynical.
The embers of all unpleasant memories get fanned by self- pity and self -criticism to keep burning. It is akin to being a jury at one’s own trial., and about being obsessive about fixing the blame rather than the problem. Moving on with life after an unsavoury incident requires one to relegate the event as one out of the limitless possible outcomes.
Que sera sera - whatever will be, will be. Reminiscing and Reacting to the past is as futile as attempting to resuscitate a corpse. Most people try and strive to uproot the weeds of unpleasant memories. This is not possible as selective amnesia is still in the domain of science fiction. The memories will remain and one needs to let them. It is far more important not to be reactive about the long buried past and use that as a scale to measure oneself. The past should never be empowered enough to affect the present. Passing a verdict about oneself based entirely on the events of the past deals a body blow to growth and development. Such a verdict is like putting on blinds that force one to view the present with self-imposed imaginary limitations. It would be very egoistic to implicate oneself and hold one entirely responsible for any event or decision taken in the past. Every event is the outcome of a complex factors most of which are not entirely predictable or controllable. Such indulgence converts a person from a possibility thinker to a probability thinker. The possibility thinker is very positive and has faith in himself believing that any dream is possible. The probability thinker, in contrast, is a sceptical individual teeming with self-doubt and fearing the probability of failure.
A farmer had a couple of horses that he used for tilling his land. They would be tied the whole day to plough the field or draw water \from the well to irrigate the fields. At night the farmer would leave the rope tied round their necks but never bothered to tie the other end. It was free. A n onlooker enquired “ Why don’t you tie the other end ? Wont the animal run away?”
The farmer replied “ The end round their necks is enough to make them believe that they are captive. They are convinced that the other end is secured.”
The unsavoury memories of the past should not become such convictions that bind us and restrict our freedom to evolve and grow.

Memories of events should serve to navigate the present rather than end up being an instrument of self accusation.
The present has to be treated like a ‘present’, a . gift that should never be vitiated by the festering past. Like the wise man said , “ hsome point we ought to get bored and refractory to the nightmares of the past and wake up to dream about the wonderful future that beckons us.”

Dr Deepak M. Ranade
Thpe author is a Consultant Neurosurgeon