Saturday, December 27, 2014

Random Meanderings

Lunch today at Casa de Luz. I was offered an opportunity to choose my piece of pie. My first thought was to take the biggest piece. I eyed a big whopper that had no pie shape whatsoever. It must have been the last piece in the pie pan. But it was behind the others, and actually did not look that appetizing. It was more of a garbage heap than an appetizing dessert. Then I eyed a pretty miserable little piece in the front row. It wasn't much bigger than the others and was poorly formed, but it spoke directly to my heart. “No one will choose me,” it cried. “I will,” I answered. And I did.

At the park yesterday I came upon a broken and decayed limb that must have fallen from some height in that it had shattered into many pieces. I eyed the arrangement of the pieces and commented to my friend that this arrangement was anything but random. Just because there was no apparent pattern, the arrangement of the various splinters of the limb seemed determined conditions—primarily by the fall.

Similarly, I eyed my plate after I scarfed down that piece of walnut pie. The arrangement of the remains was impeccable. No skilled set designer could fabricate such an authentic configuration of crumbs. “Is anything random,” I remarked, looking at the beautiful swirls that moved in a figure 8 pattern.

Supposedly computers can't generate random numbers. The numbers can be random enough to be useful, but not truly random. “Is anything random?” I asked.

“But we aren't computers,” my friends at lunch suggested. To which I responded, “Oh, I think we are. We have input and output.” Then they started to talk about their friend who was an astronomer. They suggested that he would agree, adding that they were on one side, the astronomer was in the middle, and I was at the other end (wherever that might be).

If “God doesn't play dice with the universe,” as Einstein famously said, then I wondered “is anything not the result of conditions?”

I mentioned my fixation on randomness to a Zen teacher yesterday and she replied that it didn't matter whether randomness existed or not, but what mattered was how I worked with it.

If the universe is the result of conditions, are my actions also the result of conditions? Today I wondered if everything but people is a product of conditions. Am I really free to do as I please? What will I do next? Will I go home after Zen writing tonight, or will I go by Walgreen's and pick up a prescription? Will one choice be the right one, according to my programming, and the other...well...wrong? Will I get an error message?

Now I'm feeling a little self-conscious about believing I'm making decisions. Did the branch decide how it would splinter after the long fall? Did the pie maker orchestrate how the piece of pie looked, shoveled onto a plate?

Am I free at all? Some believe that our unconscious mind (our computer?) decides things before our conscious does. Are we just on autopilot? With enough knowledge, could we have known that there would be an Einstein who would preach that the universe behaves according to its laws?​​​

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