Two for One

I may very well be staying in the smallest flat in London. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very cozy and full of love, but in terms of physical dimensions, I believe it’s all of 290 square feet. I’m staying with my buddy howie and his girlfriend, and every night I put down the futon and engulf the entirety of their free space. In terms of convenience, I don’t think you could find anything better. It’s smack dab in the middle of downtown london, easy access to any tube that you may wish to travel on. Their hospitality has been unexpected and beyond what one might ask – you don’t know how many times I’ve tried to pay something only to be waved away and told that because I’m not used to british pounds, I can’t be expected to pay. At any rate, I’ve spent far less in these last few days then I expected, and the time has passed quite pleasantly. Tonight’s adventures involved happy hour (2 for 1 coronas), drinks at one bar, drinks at another, emotional dramas and dramatic emotions. All in all good fun and pretty much what I expected when I crossed the pond.

One of the conversations the three of us had dealt with what it takes to change someone’s mind. Now this specific conversation was in regards to an unhealthy lifestyle (mine) and what it takes to affect change. Howie has always been quite vocal about my lack of exercise and smoking, however this has little effect on my day to day routine. Tania (his girlfriend) pointed out something that I thought was quite significant: in our own individual world, there seems to be two kinds of advice – one that is external and is readily accepted, and one that is internal to our world and mostly rejected. For example, someone will tell you to go to such and such restaurant and you will willingly try it out, however if the same person tells you to quit smoking, it will be met with orders of magnitude more resistance. So I was struck by this disjunction.. why is some advice accepted and some rejected? Where does someone’s suggestions become influential, and where does someone’s suggestions become detrimental?
What I figure is that if it’s a suggestion to *change* something, then that is always met with resistence. If it’s a suggestion to *try* something, then you will always be more open. Perhaps it’s our neural pathways, where one path is already set in stone and resisting change, another has not been laid and does not require much effort, as that is what our brain is meant to do.
Right now I’m reading a book on neuralplasticity, where the central thesis is that our brain is completely programmable, and at the whim of our central consciousness. The author of the book believes that the deterministic, materialistic view of our consciousness is a naive one, one that is too rigidly based in the mechanical fundamentals of the universe. I’m inclined to believe him, because the alternative – no freedom of choice – is a universe that I simply cannot fathom. To be honest, I can’t think of anything worse in the world then to be some pawn of the universe, unable to determine my own path. It’s a fate worse then death because it ultimately makes our lives meaningless. I live for meaning, and if that means I have to have faith in my conscious soul, then I have faith.

One thought on “Two for One”

  1. Great to hear you are having a good time in London, it is one of my favorite places as well and yes, I too have experienced the unexpected hospitality that is rear to see here, in the US.
    Anyways, your last few sentences re the angst against meaningless of life is what caught my eye. It is true that staring in the face of deterministic structure of the universe and one’s own life is quite a scary and sad thought. The fact is, however, freedom of choice does not necesserily = freedom of life and that does not necesserily translate into meaningfullness.
    I do not believe that we have a freedom of choice, but we do have choices, very limited ones. There are a lot of things that I would like to do that are physically and metaphysically beyond my capability, thus automatically removing the word freedom from the description of my nature. It would be different if the calling to do these things was absent as well, then freedom would remain that. Yet we cannot talk about freedom in the confined context of being human because it simply does not exist, that is why we have dreams. Those dreams are what give our lives meaning, and their connection to the choices that are made in the external world; not the very limited choices themselves.

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