On freedom (of thought) and free will.

Do you know the feeling of not wanting to go on reading a book because one particular passage is simply so to the point that it feels like everything else will fade in comparison? With this passage below (from Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami), I do.

As I was reading this during the previous week I found a passage, that reflects some of my own thoughts and conversations. Something I wanted to share today.

“Haida laughed. “…I don’t like to be tied down to one place. I want to be free – to go where I want, when I want, and be able to think about whatever I want.”
“Sure, but that can’t be easy to actually do.”
“It isn’t. But I’ve made up my mind. I always want to be free.”

“But it seems to me that thinking about things freely can’t be easy.”
“It means leaving behind your physical body. Leaving the cage of your physical flesh, breaking free og the chains, and letting pure logic soar free. Giving a natural life to logic. That’s the core of free thought.”
“It doesn’t sound easy.”
Haida shook his head. “No, depending on how you look at it, it’s not hard. Most people do it at times, without even realizing it. That’s how they manage to stay sane. They’re just not aware that’s what they’re doing.”…
“But unless you can do that intentionally,” Tsukuru said, “you can’t achieve the real freedom of thought you’re talking about, right?”
Haida nodded. “Exactly. But it’s as difficult as intentionally dreaming. It’s way beyond your average person.”
“Yet you want to be able to do it intentionally.”
“You could say that.”
“I don’t imagine they teach that technique in the physics department.”
Haida laughed. “I never expected they would. What I’m looking for here is a free environment, and time. That’s all. In an academic setting if you want to discuss what it means to think, you first need to agree on a theoretical definition. And that’s where things get sticky. Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. So said Voltaire, the realist.”
“You agree with that?”
“Everything has boundaries. The same holds true with thought. You shouldn’t fear boundaries, but you should also not be afraid of destroying them. That’s what is most important if you want to be free: respect for and exasperation with boundaries. What’s really important in life is always the things that are secondary. That’s about all I can say.”
“Can I ask you a question?” Tsukuru said.
“Sure.”
“In different religions prophets fall into a kind of ecstasy and receive a message from an absolute being.”
“Correct.”
“And this takes place somewhere that transcends free will, right? Always passively.”
“That’s correct.”
“And that message surpasses the boundaries of the individual prophet and functions in a broader, universal way.”
“Correct again.”
“And in that message there is neither contradiction nor equivocation.”
Haida nodded silently.
“I don’t get it,” Tsukuru said. “If that’s true, then what’s the value of human free will?”
“That’s a great question,” Haida said, and smiled quietly. The kind of smile a cat gives as it stretches out, napping in the sun. “I wish I had an answer for you, but I don’t. Not yet.”

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9 thoughts on “On freedom (of thought) and free will.

  1. I finished reading this book recently and I thought it was really good. I’ve read a lot of Murakami and I always find with his books that I want them to go on a lot longer. Anyway, thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Steven,
      I’m a little over halfway through “Colorless…”; it’s my second Murakami read. Did you read “Kafka On the Shore”?
      I admire Murakamis ability to loosen ones concept of reality. Thanks for commenting!

      • Hi Charlotte,

        Actually, Kafka on the Shore is one of the few Murakami books I haven’t read. I’ll probably get round to it at some point!

        I’m currently reading ‘Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel which has taken me a while to get into but I’m really enjoying it now!

        Reading a good book is one of life’s greatest pleasures, don’t you think?

        Best wishes,

        Steven

      • Okay – but I can recommend it – it’s worth a read. “Life Of Pi” I haven’t read myself; I tend to always find books (or the other way around) when there’s something in them that has some kind of “message” to me, something that reflects challenges in my own life. I agree; reading a good book is one of life’s greatest pleasures. And, to me, also a way of getting to know myself if you know what I mean?
        Sincerely,
        Charlotte

      • Yes, I love it when a book speaks to you in a deep and personal way! That’s why I read a lot of philosophy as I’m fascinated by life’s big questions. Take care, and keep up the blogging! Steven

  2. Oh I’ve read a lot of Murakami, I love his books and they have a front row on my bookshelf! I’ve never even heard of this ‘Colourless’ though, is it a new one? I need to check it out asap! Loved the passage. Murakami is a genius.

    • 😀Yes, I think it’s from last year, actually. Yeah, love this passage too. ❤️ Btw, I finished reading mine; I can send it to you if you’d like? (If the postage isn’t too expensive.) 😊

  3. Hello I’ve just reached this point of the book and I am sooooo confused (fyi English is not my first language). Anyhow, I read it over again like 3 times, read more article on ‘freewill’ (as it was my first time being introduced to it) then watched a lecture on youtube on the topic, but still, I just don’t get this whole conversation, about the prophet and the absolute being. Now, when I read your article, I got even more curious.

    Can you please please pelase, explain, at least in your opinion, what was the whole conversation about and what was the outcome of it? What is the whole thing about freewill and the absolute being. That will be a great great help. Thank you so much!!

    thezencode@gmail.com

    • Hi and thanks for your comment and questions.

      Have you ever heard the saying “curiosity killed the cat”? Often this saying is interpreted as having a negative note to it; we have to be careful of being too curious or else we might end up paying a high price. I mention this as an example of a marker that marks the outer boundaries of thought. Murakami writes:
      “But it seems to me that thinking about things freely can’t be easy.”
      “It means leaving behind your physical body. Leaving the cage of your physical flesh, breaking free of the chains, and letting pure logic soar free. Giving a natural life to logic. That’s the core of free thought.”
      This is one aspect of theme of the conversation – a discussion of the free thought and the boundary of thought.(As a note to this: if we want to leave behind the cage of the physical, set ourselves free, a confrontation is inevitable. But a confrontation with what? And how does one leave behind the cage of the physical? The simple answer is death. One dies. Not physically of course, but spiritually. One lets all ones preconceptions, prejudice and personal story (which is all embedded in the body) die. How one does this is another question for another time. 🙂
      Another aspect of the conversation is the link between the free will and the absolute being. “The problem” with the free will is that being in possession of one (a free will) means that you are free to choose what you’d like. Even if this means choosing something that is not in line with the nudges, references and recommendations of the absolute being (e.g. prophecies, intuitions or other messages). One is free to choose the path that one know’s is not one’s true path, but something you only choose out of for example a false sense of security, fear, laziness. It is often the choice that on the surface seems to be the easy choice, but in the end is nothing but a dead end.
      Essentially, you could say that in every moment there is really only the choice between “The Good” and “The Less Good”. A rephrasing of the old theme of Good vs. Evil, God vs. the Devil, light vs. darkness, the soul vs the ego. What is important is the ability to tell the difference.

      “In different religions prophets fall into a kind of ecstasy and receive a message from an absolute being.”
      “Correct.”
      “And this takes place somewhere that transcends free will, right? Always passively.”
      “That’s correct.”
      Essentially,there is only One will, but a will that you can choose not to follow.

      I hope this makes sense, otherwise feel welcome to write back and dive deeper into this.

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