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 Neurosurgeonfirstname.lastname@example.org)