Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

An Odd Combination

Reading Ender's Game this week already had me thinking deep thoughts about agency.  There's a passage in there that says something to the effect of "people are free until humanity needs them."

Okay, I just had to look it up and get it right.  From page 35:
 "Human beings are free except when humanity needs them." 
I was pretty close!

Well, that quote and the subsequent pages during which 6 to 10 year old Ender fights for the good of humanity with little choice in the matter got me to thinking a whole slew of rambling thoughts which I convinced myself had no place on digital paper.

And then I had the chance to attend the temple twice which incited my usual curious thought regarding Adam and Eve.  It's a triviality which doesn't affect my faith or testimony and one which I assume I really won't get in this life, but which still rattles around in my brain from time to time.

I get why Adam fell.  It's in the scriptures, and I'm pretty okay with the "that man might be" explanation.  But the why behind Eve's fall has always kinda bugged me.  And the resurfacing of that rattling question plus this week's rambling thoughts from Ender's Game just made for an odd combination which resulted in my inability to neglect said rambling thoughts.

So here they are, the inner workings of my brain which I truly have no desire to sort out (so while many and varied opinions are welcome, please resist the urge to offer finite solutions):

When it comes to the big, history-defining choices, were those people really free?  I mean, take Joseph Smith for example.  Could Heavenly Father afford to put someone in that position unless He knew, I mean really knew what choice he'd make?  And if there's truly only one possible outcome, and Joseph was at that point a cog in the plan, is there really choice?

Maybe some of that choice happened before we got here?  Maybe there were some things that Heavenly Father knew just had to be done, and maybe there was some huge sign-up sheet.

In the book, people were able to use Ender for good because of a specific set of personality traits.  Is that how Heavenly Father is able to put certain people in the right place at the right time?  And if so, how does that affect the concept of agency?  I mean, yes, I know we always can choose, but I think we're all predisposed to make certain choices and when faced with certain situations we can be counted on to act pretty predictably.

Take my mom for example.  She sees the world in straight up right or wrong, black or white.  I think Heavenly Father can pretty much put her in any situation and know she's hardwired to pick "right."  I think that makes her a pretty effective tool.  Much better than I am, seeing all the shades of gray and being much more likely to choose a few degrees to the left.

So when He chooses her, and she chooses right, I think maybe the world becomes a little less random.  Which leaves me to wonder how many, if any, strings He actively pulls.  Does He put the Hitlers in place, or is that randomly generated by the aggregate poor choices of the world?  Does He pave the way for the good?  For the bad?  Or are we a world left truly to our own agency?

Are some of us more free than others, with maybe a little more generalized plan for life on earth?  Do some of us get the instructions, "be good... endure to the end" while others are sent here with a more specific agenda?  Are human beings only free unless the Lord needs them?

I think maybe I'm thinking of "free" as something a little different than "free to choose."  In every circumstance we get to choose our actions and reactions.  But we don't get to choose the consequences, and maybe that's what makes the good people a little less free.  Good people can see that good choices end in good results for themselves, for their families, for humanity, or maybe even for the broader purpose of God's plan.  While a lesser person might have seen a difficult choice between persecution and peace, I think Joseph Smith saw the big picture.  And knowing how great that big picture was, how could he not make the choices he made.  Are good people, just because of their goodness, limited in their range of choices?

"Human beings are free except when humanity needs them."



brett said...

Probably a very jumbled comment, but here it goes.
I do believe that we are always "free to choose". However, using more modern examples of our church leaders,I think President Monson absolutely has the choice to choose between right and wrong. But, like your mom, he is pretty consistent at choosing right. Otherwise he would not be in that position. I do believe that even outside of the inner workings of the church people like your mom are put in certain situations because of their consistency in choosing right. People like you and I are also put into those situations so the Lord can allow us the opportunity to choose the right, knowing full well that we may choose astray once in a while.
And then I make my sports analogy with soccer. A soccer team's starters are generally the most consistent players on the team. Once in a while that means that the better skilled players are actually on the bench. Then the coach has to choose when and how to use his alloted 3 subs in a game on when and how to allow those skilled yet less consistent players onto the field to affect the game.
Just as the coach and other team leaders will encourage those players to make the right plays, the Lord tries to convince me through promptings of the spirit or sometimes a little more loudly through a talk or lesson at church encourages us to make the right play as well.

Brigham said...

Having foreknowledge of someone's choice does in no way inhibit agency. I know that you will choose to feed your children. I can publish to the entire world that you will not fail at taking proper care of their nourishment. At the same time you can decide at any point in time to not feed them and lock yourself in your bedroom so you do not have to put up with their cries (I have known of parents to do that). If that were the case I would simply have been wrong in my publications. Let's pretend for a second that I am able to see the end from the beginning so that if I was ever wrong about anything I would cease to exist. I am not wrong about you deciding to take care of your children but you still have a choice

Amy said...

It is a very interesting concept and one that I've pondered on too. Very good points and I just want to point out something. As my very "black and white"
mother would say- choosing the right will make you be able to keep choosing.

Really want to read Enders Game now.

Matt Adams said...

Love this post! Ender's Game is one of my favorite books, and your musings about Adam and Eve and choice are ones that I'm sure most of us reading your blog have pondered about as well.

Through sequels and parallel novels, we find out that Bean was kept as a "back up reserve" in case Ender couldn't fulfill the purpose they had for him. Do you think there are ever "back ups" in Heavenly Father's plan?