I’ve always had mixed feelings about the theory of evolution. Not the humans evolving from monkeys part. Everything clearly evolves. I evolve; you evolve; the birds, bees, bears, and baboons evolve. Once we huddled in caves thrilled to light a fire, now we watch revolutions in Egypt from our iPhones. Every thought, every gesture, every printed book or hole in the ground changes the world irrevocably for we cannot go back to the universe that existed before that hole was dug, the gesture made, the thought thought. It was the natural selection about which I had misgivings because it suggested all of life evolved through a combination of random mutations and the irresistible compulsion of all living things—from amoebas to elephants—to make more of itself while avoiding death. Nowhere in any of this was that with which I have lived every day of my life: free choice.
To me this has always been the burden and the gift of consciousness. I can do anything, which is dizzying at times. I am always having to choose every single thing I do, say, and think. It is relentless. No one or thing has ever been able to choose anything for me. They have tried, but in the end I must still give my Yay or Nay before I take a single step. I don’t know about squirrels and llamas, but for humans, life is one endless and contiguous stream of choices. Was evolution chosen or imposed? I don’t know, but for my money, any theory that does not take into account free choice needs to be revisited.
And if I were to revisit the theory of evolution, I would begin with this question: why does all life desire to live? What is the mathematical or alchemical formula that requires everything from dandelions to Barak Obama to live, live, live, live and make more life that can go on living? And if everything in my life is a choice, is not that very living a choice as well?
Art has long sought to tackle this very question. The question, after all, is like a joke that ceases to be funny once it is explained, just as our stories defy the tidy containment of a thesis paper or the ravings of a deconstructionist screed. No matter what you are writing, the answer that has eluded scientists forever lies within that urge to create what was not there before. We already know the answer for we are living it, the meaning always the act of choice itself.
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