There are those who might say I’m a lucky man. I have my health, a happy relationship, good friends, work I enjoy that is rewarding both financially and in a multitude of other ways. I live in a developed country with free health care. I can look forward to a decent pension and an enjoyable and pleasant retirement. I may even die peacefully and pass from this vale of tears into oblivion.
Lucky? That would suggest that these events and aspects of my life were the product of mere fortune. And not even ‘mere’ fortune but rather directed good fortune as if the universe were smiling on me (like a collection of randomly moving and chaotically organized matter could smile).
I accept that much of my life’s outcomes are the result of random chance. It’s not as if I can control things like the passage of gamma rays through my body (nasty little cancer causing agents those gamma rays) or even the swirl and mixture of my parent’s genes that happened to award me with intelligence and general fitness. Sure, but I can still take some credit for my pleasant existence.
I worked hard at school and got three degrees. I had a willingness to travel for work that opened up plenty of opportunities that I was smart enough to grab. Though I mishandled more than a few, I chose wisely often enough that things have worked out for me.
To believe that we are strictly the masters of our fate is a foolish illusion. Many neuro-scientists don’t even believe we are masters of anything. There is plenty of evidence that our brain and our bodies know what our decisions will be before we are consciously aware of them. So much of life is random chance – whom we meet, whether the driver in the next lane falls asleep at the wrong moment, you name it.
Yet it isn’t meaningless. Even in a random universe, where intelligent life is not unique but is certainly rare, we hold something special in our brains — the ability to think, to make plans and choices, to construct meaning between us. Free will may not be all it is cracked up to be but as I like to say to those who deny it exists: What would motivate you to say such a thing?
The universe is indeed a series of random and probabilistic events at the quantum level but it is still full of amazing things. And evolution – driven by our need to survive, compete, find a mate and rise to the top of the food chain has given us the ability to say over and over: Oh, wow!
And that is ten minutes.