Victus Spiritus


Chaos and Order, Freedom and Determinism

07 Jun 2010

Rich in Choices: Freedom, Flexibility, & Commitment

Freedom is an easy idea to comprehend at first glance, but a challenging concept to fully grasp. It is the absence of restrictions. It's a pole diametrically opposed to predictable events. There's a strong correlation between freedom and chaos, but they are not equivalents. Living with absolute freedom is physically impossible and anything close to it is highly detrimental to life. Biological building blocks are complex but systematic, requiring a certain level of order for life to exist.

While the processes of life are better served closer to the poles of determinism and order, our personal sense of freedom is driven by a mix of individual and social forces*. As soon as we limit our freedom to a set of fixed options, it drastically approaches a predictable outcome. Most of our lives are spent optimizing choices in this limited opportunity space, and it's where we focus the majority of our attention and energy.

Freedom is the measure of flexibility a person has in their daily choices

If you have to go the same place to do the same thing five or seven days a week you may not feel very liberated. We are challenged to find free thought in the same restricted activities. Fortunately we are capable of introducing unpredictable creativity even in habitual tasks. Beyond that we can work to nourish a life that is full of opportunities:

An Analogy in Physics

Quantum mechanical particles represent a relationship between unknown (free) and measured (determined) states. The state of a quantum mechanical particle is represented by a probability distribution. There is a chance it is in one of several possible states which are only compressed down to a single state through measurement. The particles transition from a state of greater to lesser freedom.

Some Commitments are more Primal than Choices

It's a little different for me now writing about the concepts of flexibility and rigidity, but not just as a newlywed. It was a few years before the ceremony where we both communicated our feelings and desire to share our lives together. Some decisions, like my life long commitment and marriage to Michelle, are as simple and fundamental as breathing. The loss of "flexibility" isn't even a consideration. There was nothing resembling a decision, there was only an irresistable feeling of this is the way.

*= it's a little off topic for an already long post to dive into cultural effects on individual freedom, but worth me reading up on