Do you already

By Nick Dilonardo

I don’t believe in free will because of Friedrich Nietzsche. He writes of those who preach fire and brimstone and their need for free will. Without it, we are not accountable, and we need to be in order to be damned or rewarded, according to Immanuel Kant.

Do you really think you are that in control of your life?

Start with Des Cartes. Start with ‘cogito ergo sum’ or ‘I think therefore I am.’ Famously, this, he argued, is all we can know for certain. All knowledge from that point forward is built upon this premise, an assumption that what we can know is limited by the subjectivity of our position. Our eyes can lie to us; our ears can fool; our senses deceive. They are untrustworthy, he would argue. In their place, we must trust our rational mind, our intellect. In the place of empirical evidence, he offers theory.

What I like about this point isn’t so much the point itself, but rather what can be inferred from it: the number of assumptions we make everyday. When we wait for the bus – sorry, this is USD – when we wait for the tram, we assume it will arrive as scheduled. When we step on and sit down, we assume to be carried to our destination. Last Friday, on the way down from Copley and to the west lot, a girl requested to be dropped by the stop sign. Instead, the driver drove her down into the top of the parking structure, eliciting befuddled faces and confused remarks from those ready to disembark from the tram. It was a pit stop on an otherwise short trip, but it jammed their circuits. It took them by surprise, and in doing so, forced all of us to consider how much we take for granted, like the tram going where it is supposed to go.

We promise our friends that we’ll meet them Thursday, perhaps at a bar. We pick a time – let’s call it 9 – and promise to be there. Nietzsche might point out the ridiculous number of things we take for granted between when we make that promise, and when we are to fulfill it. We assume so much: that our car will have gas, that it’ll even run, that we won’t be sick, that we won’t be assigned homework (as if that would matter). We assume we’ll still be alive. We assume so much that making promises and keeping them, for Nietzsche, is Superhuman.

Each of us has a personality. Some of us have more than others. We are who we are. The point is, when faced with a decision, we have a choice. Some of us listen to our gut. Some of us listen to our heads. I would argue that when faced with a decision, I tend to make the “Nick” decision. And what if life is like that? What if life is a series of decisions that are essentially preordained by virtue of who you are?

Think of it this way: put Mike Tyson in that ring again with Holyfield, put him behind in the fight at the height of his power, desperate, and I would argue that biting that ear off is simply the Mike Tyson decision. Does this sound crazy to you?

Ever heard the saying “she would do that” or “that’s so him”? This is exactly it. We know our friends natures. We know our own, perhaps. With this knowledge, we can probably safely infer our reaction to various events or decisions. And with it, with knowing who we are, how much of that is really up to us?

When you consider the absurd role of luck in our lives, I tend to concur with the words of the film “Match Point” by Woody Allen: “It’s better to be lucky than good.” Between fortune and control, I’ll take my chances with fate. At least then, I won’t be so consumed by the consequences of what I do. Instead, I’ll focus on how I do them. Instead, I’ll focus on how I do what I do, rather than what I want to happen. How do you become a great writer? Do what other great writers have done. That’s the best you can do, I can think. In the words of a certain friend of mine, “I’m gonna do me.”