You walk into a bank, aim a gun, ask for money. A moment of truth. Two lives converge in a nexus of time and space.
If the bullet leaves the barrel of the gun and enters a victim, two lives change forever. The forces which control that decision are all in place and have been forming for years. The consequences will roll on forever. But for the moment, truth rings out. Pull the trigger, or not? Is that decision the product of an instant, or is it just the last, inevitable link in a long chain formed of countless atoms, chemicals, and waves which make up a life? Free Will or Destiny. Choice, or biological determinism?
You may be poor, you might be the victim of predatory banking practices, or might have a genetic tendency to squeeze triggers, but, we don’t allow much ambiguity in this situation. No matter how extenuating the circumstances, we will not easily forgive the taking of a life.
Scaled back to every day existence, our lives are made up of countless moments such as this one. Any moment may crystallize into a moment of truth. Drive too fast? Have unprotected sex? Have another drink? Just like the pulling of a trigger, we are responsible for every decision we make. If not, if we’re just puppets of destiny, then what meaning has life?
For while each act of our daily lives might be the result of a universe of thoughts, influences and causative factors, each is also, on its own, a discrete choice, over which we have ultimate control.
Your arm bends to raise a cupcake to your mouth: you have made a choice as clear as pulling a trigger. You may have a genetic tendency to gain weight. You may be subject to predatory marketing practices. You may be going along with a group, or compensating for depression. But that cupcake doesn’t get between your lips unless you bend your elbow.
Outside influences might be also responsible, but that doesn’t make you not responsible.
You have a physiological predisposition to fall down. So do I. Unlike all other animals, we walk on two legs, and enjoy the advantage of free hands to talk on cell phones, or eat ice cream cones. In order to not fall down we learn to walk.
To blame falling down on genetic predisposition is the same as blaming obesity on the arm bending gene.
A predisposition is not your destiny. Your choices are.
If not, then what meaning has life?