Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
First, let me begin by saying I am not a scientist or used to writing papers on scientific theory, therefore, I apologize in advance for the simplistic way I have defined things in this blog. I am not trying to write a paper for college I’m trying to express my views as generally as possible to the widest audience of readers. My definitions of each theory will, no doubt, vary some from the experts and from my readers and that is okay. I hope in the end my definition, at least, generally defines the theory.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comment section below or by emailing me. Your emailed comments will be edited and may be shared in future blog postings anonymously.
I have been wanting to write about this for several years, but I felt I did not have a complete grasp on the question until now. It was only around 2010 that I understood one of the theories I will write about below.
What is Pre-determined and fluid?
Pre-determined is defined as “a course defined or decided in advance”.
For example, let us pretend that there are two towns, Town A and Town B that are located on a stretch of Trans-Canada 1 (Interstate 80) twenty kilometres (14 miles) apart from each other. I need to travel from Town A to a meeting in Town B and I am running late.
There are other rural roads available that I could have taken but the best course is clearly defined as TCH-1 (I-80). I will drive the shortest, fastest route to my destination, TCH-1 (I-80). The direction I will take to get to Town B has been predetermined.
Fluid is flowing and more optional in its definition as an “object with no fixed shape that is subject to external forces”. In my example, the objective of my trip does not change. I still need to go from Town A to Town B for a meeting. I will, however, change “I am running late” to “I have two hours to get there”.
The course of the events remains pre-determined. Traveling from one town to the other for a reason. The direction I take there, however, becomes more fluid. The outcome is ultimately the same. I arrive in Town B for a meeting, my arrival time becomes fluid.
The conclusion of a predetermined and fluid future would be that the course of events and outcomes are established, however, the driver (you) gets to choose the course through their actions. Each course remains pre-determined and, overall, not clear to you but the outcome remains the same.
What are Cause and Effect?
A cause is an action and those actions create dozens, if not millions, of effects. It is defined as a “relationship between things where one is the result of the other”. Wikipedia defines “causation” as “in general, a process has many causes, which are said to be causal factors for it, and all lie in its past. An effect can, in turn, be a cause of, or causal factor for, many other effects, which all lie in its future. Causality is metaphysically prior to notions of time and space”.
To summarize causation is defined by Newton’s third law of motion that tells us that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Another name for this is “karma” where each action has an effect and a reaction. Positive actions yield positive effects while negative actions result in negative effects. Now I know some of you are reading this and thinking ‘well that is not an opposite reaction to my action’ and you are correct. In the law of motion, 'Ball A' rolls across the table and strikes 'Ball B'. The ‘pushing’ of 'Ball B' away from 'Ball A' is equal to the force ‘pushing’ 'Ball B' in a direction. Rolling To something and rolling Away from something are opposites.
Let me give you another example. The alarm clock rings. I need to get up for work. Instead of getting up for work I turn off the alarm and remain in bed. An hour later the phone rings and it’s my boss calling asking why I have not shown up for work. I tell them I am sick and staying home. My boss then calls a co-worker and asks them to come into work in my place. They go into work. The result is that my co-worker is at work in place of me based on the chain of events that were created when I turned off my alarm clock.
The theory of cause and effect (causation) was present in the movie “The Butterfly Effect” starring Ashton Kutcher and Amy Smart. (spoiler) To summarize Ashton’s character went back into his past and changed an event. This caused what is known as the butterfly effect. Basically, his character discovered that altering one small action (choice/decision) can have a rippling effect that changes everything else. Causation is the closest thing to “free will” that humans have.
I can not really provide you with a personal experience on this one since it involves going back in time and following a different timeline. There are pivotal moments in my life where my actions, my decisions, changed the course of it entirely.
For example, April 27, 1989, on that day I rode my bicycle down to the park, saw a girl sitting by the bridge and gathered up the courage to speak to her. She would end up becoming my first official girlfriend. We dated for six months and I took a summer job at a lodge for six weeks because of her, right before I went off to college.
On August 27, 1989, we broke up. That was one of the pivotal moments in my life. I went off to college alone and at the edge of depression. I completed my first year but withdrew before my second. I do not have any regrets, but I often wonder what would have happened had she and I stayed together. How my life would have gone from that point involved in a long-distance relationship with someone who could have been emotionally supportive.
What is random chance?
You know these two words “random” and “chance” in your day to day life. Random is when things happen that are not predetermined, and a chance is the random outcome of predetermined actions. Many circles, religious, scientific, like to call this “fate”. When all hope fails, and it seems like the world will not change fate steps in and opens a new possibility.
Now I will not write about how all “random outcomes” are “not random”, I will leave that for another day. If you really want to know about it now you can read this article on the randomness of algorithms. The basic understanding of random chance or fate is the deviation from the original course.
This “fate” or “chance” is present in the movie “The Adjustment Bureau” as the reason for the characters paths crossing even though “the plan” was different for each of them.
Random chance, now I have a story for you that I think falls under this category. Whether it was by the hand of some omniscient power or simply dumb luck it changed the course of my future.
I was thinking about running in the upcoming election for the position of councillor-at-large, but I needed $100 for the application fee. I was living on a very fixed income and owed on a credit card, so I did not know how I would get the money to apply. Then one day fate stepped in.
I was at work doing my job as usual. I was thinking about how I could come up with the money while I was straightening one of the sections in my department. I believed strongly in the ‘law of attraction’ and I was starting to see the ‘signs’ all around me that there was a greater force at work in the universe than just dumb luck.
I turned the corner, looked down at the floor, and there before me was a $100 bill. I looked around and no one was anywhere near the section. I reached down, picked it up, and did a double take around to see if I was being pranked. I held onto that $100 bill for the rest of the day being mindful that someone might report it missing. No one ever did. To be honest, how do you lose a $100 bill? It is not like it would just fall out of your wallet or purse. Someone, something, left it there right where I was about to walk in answer to my desire. I used the $100 for my application fee a few days later and ran in the election. I did not win but events through the course of running changed my life forever, stories for another time.
What is pre-determined and fixed?
I have defined pre-determined above, fixed is exactly that – fixed and unwavering from deviation. Fixed implies that any course has a set pre-determined direction and no matter what you do to try to change it things will be forced back to the path. Think of pre-determined and fixed as the guard-rails along the highway of your life. If you slip off course and hit them they are designed to push you back on the path.
This idea was presented in the movie “The Adjustment Bureau” starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. (spoiler) To summarize the architect of your predetermined life (the Chairman, in the movie) writes the course your life will take and all possible outcomes of your decisions. There is no “free will” only the ‘appearance of free will’.
My views on this topic
For the longest time, I believed that my life was this way. It seemed like nothing I did would work out for me and my life was heading into a downward spiral. I was not raised this way specifically, but I came to believe that the stereotype was the life that I needed to live. Friends, college, career, marriage, kids, mid-life, retirement, death, in that order. Ironically while I lived my life going through the motions another part of me felt there was absolutely no plan at all. The two worlds collided in 2002 when I saved my soul from dying by asking for a divorce.
I sometimes wonder if life is not fixed. If the victories and pitfalls we experience throughout our lives are not lessons required either for future events in our lives or the conclusion of it. I think the best example to use is the one I call “my minimalism”.
When I owned my store, I could not maintain an apartment and my business and had to live in the back of my store to cut expenses. But when I lost my store to bankruptcy I found myself living in a mock up room in a friend’s basement. I was forced into the lifestyle of having few possessions and only owning the basics that I needed to get by. This minimalist experience prepared me for my next adventure, living and working up north in remote Nunavut.
I spent most of my time up there being shuffled around from room to room never really having a place of my own. And when I returned to Ontario, and to a different restrictive setting, I lived in a small bedroom on the second storey of a cottage sized home. I was there for several months through until spring when I decided to load up my van and head west.
This move out west with no destination in mind required me to live out of my vehicle for a month with none of the comforts of a ‘home’. I would use the facilities at Husky Travel Centres for showers and washroom, and park in many public places like parking lots as campgrounds were not yet open for the season. I had received the skills to take this risk and travel across Canada thanks to losing my store and to living up north.
I say that this is predetermined but fixed in that it gives an example on how skills that are acquired through what seem like cause and effect are required for future events. This implies that our futures are pre-determined and will follow a set course no matter what we do if we ‘go with the flow’.
And now, the survey. I asked 33 people the following question.
“Do you personally believe your individual future life to be…”
And provided them with the four responses, that you read above, to choose from. I did not provide them with my view and, while offered, no one asked for clarification on the definition of any of the choices. I have smart friends and followers.
Here are the results of the survey.
B. Cause and effect 46%
A. Predetermined and fluid 21%
D. Predetermined and fixed 21%
C. Random chance 12%
Nearly the majority of those surveyed, 15 out of 33, believe that “cause and effect” or causation is the governing force behind their own personal future lives.
Now, three people, including myself chose two possibilities. As the question desired only one answer and for the sake of simplification, a response of “mostly B and sometimes C” meant that they dominantly believed that “B. Cause and effect” was the answer.
Another comment I received was “75% B 25% C you really reap what you sow, but there are always those random elements that ‘come out of nowhere’. They are unanticipated, no matter how careful or well prepared you are, sometimes you are ‘saved’ by some eternality that prevents or aborts a bad result”. This response was counted under B – cause and effect. It is interesting to note that these three individuals who answered with two choices all believed that a percentage of their future is left up to random chance.
I answered D 75% and C 25% much like the plot behind the movie “The Adjustment Bureau” mentioned above.
I believe that, while my future has the illusion of being undetermined, it is in fact pre-determined by a force greater than myself. I do wonder sometimes if our world does not have ‘angels’ that adjust the course of events. I do not see the course of our civilization having a ‘finish line’ anywhere in the next few millennia. I believe that fate or chance can add challenges to that fixed course, that things do not always work out ‘to plan’. Perhaps fate is residual ‘free will’ bouncing around in this box of predetermination.
I am curious to know what you think and what your views are. Please respond below or send me an email.
A special thank you to all of the talented photographers and creators who contribute their works to Pixabay for use commercially without the need for credit. It is now my number one source for images for blog articles and other projects.
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