I was mingling at a literary lunch recently, when I started talking to an elderly gentleman. We were talking about the pleasantries of the day, when he came out with:
“Do you realize you and I are nothing but machines!”
I almost choked on my Hemingway Daiquiri!
“What do you mean by calling me a machine?”
“Well, your organs and body parts are working parts as a machine. Your brain is your mental machinery. You originate nothing, all your ideas and thoughts come from external influences. You are a machine shaping raw material from external sources.”
The elderly gentleman smiled sardonically, and continued:
“You and I are not in control, our lives are determined by factors outside of our control. Our futures are fixed and predetermined.”
“I am a writer, what about my creativity?”
“We create nothing, your creations are imitations!”
“What do you mean by that?” I was getting angry.
“Your imitations come from outside influences, experiences, reading books, etc. All this frames patterns in your mind and your mental machinery turns out the finished product. The less outside influences, the less product!”
“I have to disagree with your strange doctrine,” I scowled.
“It may be strange, but it makes sense. What do you think about creativity and originality then?”
“My originality comes from my judicious selection of all the ideas I have come across and how I put them together into a story. No one combines the knowledge in the exact same way as I do! My creativity is how I present my knowledge. You are a Determinist. I am a Existentialist!”
The old man thought for a moment and then said:
“So, what are your beliefs?”
“Well, I believe we have the freedom to CHOOSE who we are. My future is NOT predetermined at all! My belief is that our essence, our SELF, is something we decide and cultivate with our actions. We are our choices. You and you alone, are responsible for everything you do. You have the freedom to choose your “SELF.”
The old man looked quizzical and said:
“Well, I still believe our lives are completely predetermined.”
I finished my daiquiri and pondered my reply.
“Well, I adhere to the opposite philosophy: Free Will and Choice. Originality is your judicious selection of creative material and how you present it”
We both headed to the “Books For Sale” table. We both bought the same book.
“I was destined to buy and read this book. I simply picked it up because it was meant to be,” the old man said in a determined voice.
“I made an independent decision to buy this book, it was my choice!” I said confidently.
We both took our book and walked away in OPPOSITE directions!