Three F’s dominate our life: Free will, Fate, and Fortune.
The importance of this triad, particularly the significance of fortune, occurred to me as I flipped through Pokémon: Discover Nimbasa City! By Simcha Whitehill. I recently had my first “Power Lunch” over at Union Elementary. My reading partner there expressed interest in Pokémon, so I was looking for corresponding material to bring to our next lunchtime meeting.
This particular book is a Pick Your Own Path story. Different publishers call such stories by different names, such as: Choose your Destiny; Choose your Own Adventure; and so on. The general format by whatever name is the same: You read a few pages, then are given a choice between two or more options. Your decision determines what pages are read next; how the story plays out.
Such decision-making seems illustrative of what we generally mean by free will: you freely and willfully make a choice. Sure, there is gray here as to what degree real choices can be made – how much free will can be possessed — by an organism constrained by laws of chemistry, biology and physics, but that’s a whole other discussion. Here it is enough that free will feels like free will.
Yet there is fate here, too. The writer has already conceived the outcomes and no conclusion exists outside of it. We assume there are “right” decisions that will lead to favorable outcomes; however, being omnipotent, the writer could have all story threads converge to the same endpoint regardless of their freewheeling meandering.
But that would be mean, wouldn’t it? So let’s assume here a benevolent writer who allows for some variance in his authored fate; enough of it to give free will some meaning. Let’s even go so far as to assume the plot lines are written such that if one determines the proper course of action, they will be rewarded. Is such a model illustrative of real life?
Fortune, the wild card in such matters, would say no, not at all.
For bad things can certainly happen to “good” people who do “good” acts. Likewise, “bad” people can coast into and through favorable circumstances not by their own efforts but by sheer dumb “luck.”
Even more perversely, if measured by outcomes, sometimes the “wrong” decision is the right one or vice-versa.
Deciding to blow your child support on Powerball tickets instead of food seems like a bad idea. But eventually someone somewhere does end up with the winning numbers…
Stretching your household dollars by buying ground beef instead of caviar seems reasonable. But maybe there’s a soon-to-be-announced meat recall that won’t happen soon enough to do your family any good…
I think if I were to write these kinds of books, I would write at least two outcomes for every point of decision. Then I would package the book with dice.
Make your decision, then roll the bones to determine the next pages as you ponder the fundamental question: