The monkey riding the tiger

You can read the accompanying page, but there was an interesting article in the NYTimes about free will:

A bevy of experiments in recent years suggest that the conscious mind is like a monkey riding a tiger of subconscious decisions and actions in progress, frantically making up stories about being in control.

As a result, physicists, neuroscientists and computer scientists have joined the heirs of Plato and Aristotle in arguing about what free will is, whether we have it, and if not, why we ever thought we did in the first place.

Mark Hallett, a researcher with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said, “Free will does exist, but it’s a perception, not a power or a driving force. People experience free will. They have the sense they are free.“The more you scrutinize it, the more you realize you don’t have it,” he said.

That is hardly a new thought. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, as Einstein paraphrased it, that “a human can very well do what he wants, but cannot will what he wants.”

How comforted or depressed this makes you might depend on what you mean by free will. The traditional definition is called “libertarian” or “deep” free will. It holds that humans are free moral agents whose actions are not predetermined. This school of thought says in effect that the whole chain of cause and effect in the history of the universe stops dead in its tracks as you ponder the dessert menu.

At that point, anything is possible. Whatever choice you make is unforced and could have been otherwise, but it is not random. You are responsible for any damage to your pocketbook and your arteries.

“That strikes many people as incoherent,” said Dr. Silberstein, who noted that every physical system that has been investigated has turned out to be either deterministic or random. “Both are bad news for free will,” he said. So if human actions can’t be caused and aren’t random, he said, “It must be — what — some weird magical power?”

It reminds me of when I took my first Sociology course. Boy, that opened my eyes, to the myths we hold. Yes, you can be rich. You can be powerful. It takes a lot of hard work, but anyone can do. And so, if you’re not rich, not influential, it must be because you don’t really want to be.

It’s funny, in the church if you did something right, it’s because of God. But if you sin, it’s all your fault. Contrast that to to the feeling that if something is going right in your life (you’re rich, you’re skinny, etc), it’s due to you. And if something bad happens to you, say a car crash or cancer, it’s not your fault. But what if real life is neither of those things? What if we do and what we are is due to a weird magical power?

Fabric junkie: the next generation

So I’ve been feeling all creative and started going through my piles and piles of fabric, in all their secreted away spaces. So many ideas, so much potential. Even better, I found my old design journal. Yes, I am a closeted fashion designer. Some of them are pretty cool, one dress I designed has “inspired by regency gowns in Scars of Dracula” written at the bottom. It made me all nostalgic for those ’70s horror films.

As I was going through all these things, my little helper came to go through them with me. She found a small piece of grey satin, and has now commandeered it as her own. She really loves it. I was telling Leif how she loves the silky fabrics I have and he said “Well, it’s no wonder. She likes to wear your underwear,” which is true, she does. Though usually it’s on her head like some demented frat boy. 🙂

I made her a blanket recently, it is so girlie. Metallic pink fur on one side with embossed gray microsuede on the other, thinsulate in the middle. (I am incapable of making a simple blanket. ) It is super soft and I kind of want one of my own now. Though not in pink, maybe a metallic red.

Whaddya mean, donuts?

Sometimes you never know what kids will come up with. I can tell that already Rowan has a pretty active fantasy life. She was playing with play-doh, talking, talking, and then we hear: “Donuts?! Whaddya mean, donuts?” We still have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. She also has been acting out stories with goblins, zombies, and Darth Vader. One afternoon she was telling me an involved story that went something like this:

“There was a goblin. . . and he jumped! (demonstrates jumping ability). . . so the jumping goblins were playing. . . and Darth Vader ran to the balcony (runs to imaginary balcony). . .and there was Cinderella at the ball”

Unfortunately, there was more but it is hard to understand everything she says, especially her stories, which tend to be fairly elaborate. Often, she will use different voices, a low serious one and a falsetto. A two year old with a falsetto is especially ear piercing, so I prefer her low “monster” voices. Apparently she was out to lunch the other day with Nanny and an elderly woman comlimented her on her pretty pink shirt. At which point, she began to describe her dragon shirt completed with roaring like a dragon would roar. Yes, I love my girl!

Victoria’s Secret angst

So I have a VS gift card burning a hole in my pocket. It was a great gift (thanks Mom!) but I started making a list of all the clothes I wanted in the catalog and it became ridiculous. I estimate my wish list is in the range of $500. Needless to say my gift card was not for that amount, nor would I allow myself to buy that much in one go. So I started looking at my list and though there are some things I do need, I realized that it’s pretty much a makeover wardrobe. Especially as I just got my hair cut and dyed it this weekend too. Apparently I am not feeling comfortable in my own skin.

It’s late and I can’t sleep…

. . .which is weird because I usually fall asleep easily. Sometimes my mind just won’t be still. I was thinking of life and mortality. Kiku had come to bed and she rested her head on my shoulder for a bit, purring all the while. She will die years before I do, but it doesn’t bother her. She just is. And Rowan is the same–full of life and light, she doesn’t know yet about all the horrible things that could happen. She just is, whatever that happens to be at the moment–sometimes she is coloring, sometimes she is jumping around singing songs, sometimes she is making stories. I love being part of her world, and the intense happiness I get from seeing her live is something she will completely forget, at least these years.

Sometimes I think of all the humans before us who lived out their lives in anonymity the same way I will live out mine. Because of Leif’s ancestry, my idle daydreams are often of Viking-type people and how they would have lived. I imagine people sitting by the fire, wondering about life and love and the meaning of it all in such a huge world, where the meaning usually resides in the small amount of people you actually know. And the little children of those days probably sang and danced and took off their clothes just to show they could. It makes me so sad to think of those little children growing up and living out their lives and dying. Life is change, and life repeats, and you watch your children grow up to have children of their own. And yet it is beautiful to watch the person unfold. Rowan is so different from the 1-year old she used to be, but I have so much fun with each new day.

Sometimes I am so happy, so fiercely happy that my life is what it is, that is chills me to think this will all pass away. And yet, if the old joys do not pass away, where is room for the new ones? If I do not let go of the 2-year old Rowan, how will I enjoy the 3-year old? And me? I think of my 20s, such searching for friends and a place to make my own in this town, and I do not feel that anymore. I grew up.