And what I might choose to do with that freedom!
I flip through the channels on my TV and find something that interests me. When I click the button on my remote control, voila! – I experience the result of my choice in the presentation on the TV. Later, I open my smartphone and select an app to read the news or chat with a friend. As I write this, I feel I’m choosing the words for this post. Choices, choices, choices… Freedom!
It appears to me that I’m making choices all the time. Further, it feels like most of those choices are freely mine to make. Especially when it comes to my own thoughts, I feel I can think anything I want to think. Yay, freedom!
On the other hand, I sent out a check to the county today to pay my taxes. I don’t feel I chose to do that – yet I did. I could choose to not pay taxes and deal with the results of that choice. Still, it seems to me that I have full freedom to make the choice – as long as I’m willing to deal with the consequences. Again, freedom!
Where does my sense of freedom of choice come from? Am I really in charge of this dimension? Do I really have freedom of choice?
As an American, I’m accustomed to the words, “Freedom of choice” – from choosing a TV show to watch to making a choice of which smartphone I’ll buy. In each of these and myriad others, I feel I have freedom to choose whatever I want at the time.
Freedom <=> Choice
Not included in my formula is need – which I define as “a thing that is wanted or required” (Google). Need has a hypothetical scale of value from none (impossible) to most important. I think of the low end of the scale with a threshold above which I notice or become aware and below which I don’t think of it at all. So, for this discussion, I imagine the lowest end of need value, zero, as that threshold. Essentially, I have no absolute zero-value needs – while I have many below-threshold needs of which I am totally unaware. My freedom of choice suddenly has a new element – need.
I envision need in the image of taking a bucket of water out of the ocean – the hole where the bucket of water was removed does not remain a hole. The surrounding ocean must fill the hole. A simple natural law of physics demands the hole be filled, which it does instantly and so I don’t notice the deficit or its fulfillment. As the person removing the bucketful of water, I’m only aware of the bucket of water that I have now apparently removed and so created the need.
Freedom and Accountability
My thinking errors enter the picture in my misunderstanding of accountability. I think of accountability as the result of my choice. That is, I have freedom to choose any outcome I want and to some degree expect to see that result over others. I feel disappointed, surprised, or shocked at the results depending on the value of my need to experience the outcome of my choice. Sometimes, I experience satisfaction – maybe vindication – when my choice results in an outcome I like or expect.
My universe is a matrix in which choices interact with other choices. At no time do I experience simple cause – effect in which I make a choice and that choice alone determines a single outcome. It’s far more complex than that. I imagine this situation like I would a drop of water in a vast ocean. My particular drop of water in that ocean acts upon and is acted upon. The matrix of physics experienced by that one drop of water – no matter how strongly the drop feels free of the ocean – determines the limitation of choices in the interaction between the drop and its environment.
Freedom, Beliefs, and Needs
I exist in a matrix of my own beliefs. It appears I’m making choices based on “best evidence” or whatever criteria I feel justifies my behavior associated with my choices. Yet, each drop of choice exists in a sea of my own beliefs. It appears to me that I’m making a single choice when I choose a TV station, for example. Instead, I may be highlighting an emotional need embodied in the choice. That need illustrates a belief that has risen in importance above my threshold of awareness – and is perhaps ready for investigation!
Emotion indicates to me the level of readiness. I could look at my emotional need as a sort of Third Degree question knocking at my defensive castle gate, so to speak. A call to CHOOSE – 4th Degree Accountability OR 2nd Degree Defense!
I, too, often question my choices. “Why did I choose that?” “Why should I choose [this or that]?” These types of questions tend to elicit justifications for my choice rather than the actual belief behind the need for that choice. I want a question that might help me understand rather than justify my belief. That seems like quite a challenge.
What might I experience when I consider outcomes I want and ask, “How will I feel when I have achieved [that outcome]?” (ex: “Ooh, I’ll feel so happy when I have that shiny new widget!”) The focus being on FEELING rather than HAVING. And then, when I’ve discovered how I want to feel – fill my own need bucket by CHOOSING to FEEL that way NOW.
No law says I must wait to feel the way I want to feel or that any THING will MAKE ME feel the way I want to feel. Feelings are not physical things in time. Freedom of choice dictates that I can choose to feel any way I want to feel ABOUT ME independent of time and experience – so why not choose the way I want to feel right here, right now?