A thought comes to my mind: “I want to go out and take a walk!”. Looking more closely at it, it’s not just a thought. It is accompanied by some urge, plus a mental idea of reward (as a result of pursuing that thought), and also an emotional backdrop of wanting or needing.
A moment ago this thought was not there. Suddenly it is in my mind. I had no control over its absence a moment ago; I had no control over its appearance just now. And yet I am likely to follow it, or otherwise be tormented by it if I don’t.
Where did this thought come from? I know that I did not create it. Do these thoughts come from inside or outside of me? What’s controlling their appearance or absence?
Theoretically, I could have received just about any thought at all. Why then did I get this specific thought?
Am I to be blamed for creating this thought whether knowingly or unknowingly? Is it possible that I am unaware of creating these thoughts and emotions all by myself? I can honestly say that the emergence of these thoughts, emotions and urges are not a conscious act on my part and in fact the instantaneity of these emergences are much much faster than my consciousness’ ability to register it, until much later. And I can only assume that in large majority of cases, many of these thoughts go completely unnoticed.
And whereas I get a thought about going out to take a walk, another person gets a thought about having another (alcoholic) drink while somebody else gets a thought about killing a person. Their thoughts, just like my own, are accompanied by an urge and a mental idea of reward once the action is pursued. They are no more in control of the emergence of these thoughts/emotions/urges than I am. And yet our society doesn’t blame me for going out to take a walk, while it blames the other two. This is not to pass a judgement on society’s behavior in this instance – after all – by taking a walk I’m not hurting anyone, and by killing someone, or driving under influence I do, or potentially so. And so I understand society’s stance. But regardless, both myself and the other two people are in essence victims, of powers greater than ourselves, over which we have no control. Sure, we can acknowledge these thoughts/urges/emotions, deny them, fight them, try to ignore them. But experience keeps demonstrating that the more we fight them, the more power they seem to have over us.
Looking closer at this mysterious dynamic, I can see that there are at least three elements at work here:
- Content: What exactly the thought is;
- Intensity: How powerful are the urges, emotions and mental justifications that accompany it;
- Timing: The exact timing when thought appear may have a different effect on us.
Fear for example, is just one aspect of this picture, and we all know very well how powerful fear is in controlling us. The fear of loss keeps perpetuating so many of us working in a job that we don’t like. The fear of loneliness keeps so many of us in relationships that are hurtful and poisonous. This is not the exception – it is the rule.
Are we being controlled without our knowledge or consent? Without even suspecting? And if so, controlled by who? Or by what? After all, we regard ourselves as free-willed, self-sovereign entities, capable of doing whatever we want or choose to do, or not do. But is it possible that this very Will – which we call Our Own, is not in our control at all? What if this “self will” is predetermined for us?
If these thoughts/emotions/urges are not in our control and yet control us, then why are we here? What’s the point? Are we mere game pieces on a board game? And even if so, what’s the purpose? Is it possible that there’s no purpose?
But life continuously demonstrates the purpose of everything, and science continuously discovers these purposes and dependencies. But what if that’s what we see simply because that’s what we are capable of conceptualizing?
And how can I possibly end this article? It feels as if it has opened a portal into a terrifying abyss and that there’s no way back.
Perhaps this article is not meant to have an end. Perhaps this article is an open door, an invitation to those who dare to explore a treacherous terrain.