Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Moral Fables: Free Will Vs. Destiny

These pieces are not related to student loan debt, but I still wanted to share them with my readers here. While I am working on my book, Higher Ed, Great Debt, which I just sold to Seven Stories Press, I have begun to explore, in writing, bigger philosophical and religious topics that I've discussed and contemplated for years.

Here is the first of a new series on important, life themes, such as lies and truth, love and hate, forgiveness and revenge, etc.

Below is a snippet. The piece can be read in its entirety here.

The following series of essays have been written while teaching ESL (English as a second Language) classes to adult students from all corners of the world (this writing exercise began last month, and continues to be a part of my classes). Each morning, the first class – that began this project – was required to answer one of two questions. At first, I was the one to ask the questions, but I quickly turned it over to the students. Their questions ranged from simple, everyday life things, like, “Why are you studying English?,” to complex, philosophical questions, such as, “What are the limits to freedom?” The class would write for an hour, and I would join them. We would listen to the Gypsy Kings, U2, Coldplay, Tango, and much more. Once we were through, we would read our responses aloud, and then have a conversation about each person’s analysis. It was humbling to hear from people from Saudi Arabia, Korea, Thailand, Turkey, and elsewhere. All our answers were motivated by a desire to convey an honest, open response, and everyone had an earnest desire to share with the others. As mentioned already, I continue to carry out this exercise with my new classes. It is a thrilling experience, and when I am away from the classroom during the weekend, all I can think about is this: “I can’t wait to be back at work on Monday, so that I can write with all of my students, and then share!”

Like so many complex, philosophical ideas, these two concepts – free will versus destiny – have been explained tirelessly by the greatest minds. (Mind you, when I refer to great minds, I don’t just mean sagely philosophers). Regardless of a person’s station in life, human beings think about, debate, and question how or even if there are intersecting points between free will and destiny.

Each human mind conceives of these two things in a peculiar way. In addition, a person’s cultural background and – most importantly – the particular moment in time (what historians call historical context) in which she finds herself, informs her understanding of free will versus destiny.

So, the peasant from, say, Peru might think about free will versus destiny differently than a surgeon who sews up bodies in Los Angeles, California. However, both individuals might just consider it in such a way that intersects with a teacher who works in Denver, Colorado. In a word, perhaps at heart, all three of these people think about free will versus destiny in the exact same way.

Jan Havicksz's Twelfth Night Feast (1662)

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