7. Buenos Aires
What’s at the top of your list?
7. Buenos Aires
What’s at the top of your list?
softly survey stony shores.
Soothe my stormy soul.
I saw The Lego Movie last week, and it got me thinking. (Major spoilers ahead.)
As you’d expect, the characters in Lego Movie – the plastic mini-figures – act like real people. They think, they feel, they decide. Within the context of the movie, they have free will.
But the big twist at the end reveals what we all know anyway: humans control Legos. It turns out that everything the little yellow guys have been doing was the product of a boy and his father’s imaginations. The boy makes the character say something and the character says it within his own Lego world, as if it had been his own idea all along – because, within the imaginary world, it was his own idea all along.
Does free will exist, or not? Do we choose our own destiny, or are we controlled by some other force, like God or fate or the laws of physics?
The Lego Movie‘s treatment of this issue looks a lot like the philosophical stance known as “compatibilism,” which I believe in myself. Compatibilism says that free will and determinism are compatible, that in fact they are two different words for the same thing.
Anyone watching the Lego people move, talk, and think, would be convinced that they have just as much free will as the toys in Toy Story. They do what they want, when they want, for the reasons they choose. If that isn’t free will, what is?
Yet it turns out that everything they do is the product of another mind. Does that mean their will was somehow less “free?” Of course not, because free will was part of the imaginary scenario the humans were playing out. They were both happening at the same time.
In the same way, my own actions as a human being are completely determined by the laws of physics. My thoughts are identical with nerve impulses in my brain, which are controlled by the iron laws of mathematical reality. Does that mean I don’t have free will? Not at all. It just means that the machinations of my brain are identical with the machinations of the physical universe.
The father in The Lego Movie is played by Will Ferrell, which leads to a delightful coincidence. For the Lego people, Fate and Will are the same thing. (Ha!) So it is in life, says I.
Ben Trube’s writing challenge: Write a story in which two characters are having a conversation in a public place, and a stranger cuts in. Or conversely, write a story in which your character cuts in on a conversation between two strangers.
Quark polished a glass. “So I told him, look, Julian, the holosuite programs come on a strictly as-is basis, no refunds. You want to fight the Battle of Hastings, great, that’s exactly what you get. Not my fault if you can’t understand what anybody’s saying.”
“Mmm.” Odo surveyed the bar.
“Now the chief’s recalibrating the Universal Translator to handle Old English. I said, you’re kidding! You can talk to any alien in the quadrant, but you can’t speak your own language? Even if it is a little out of date. Not that I mind, you understand. The suite hasn’t seen this much use since Worf discovered chess boxing.”
“Odo, you’re looking even more sour than usual. Personally, I’m impressed. Tell me what’s bothering you.”
Odo studied him. “Why should I?”
“Because I’m your friend! That’s what friends do. Besides, I can help.”
“You forgot Kira’s birthday, didn’t you?”
The constable’s eyes shot open wide. “How did you – “
“It was yesterday, and today you’re moping. The clues were obvious.”
“I’m not moping. Anyway, why do you know the Major’s birthday?”
“The Major? Is that what you call her on your long starlit walks down the Promenade? No wonder you’re in trouble.”
“We’re in space, Quark. Every walk is a starlit walk. And I’m not in trouble. Not exactly.”
“You’re not? What did she say?”
“She said – ” Odo looked around and lowered his voice as if imparting Federation secrets. “She said it was fine. She said birthdays are silly.”
“But she hasn’t said anything else since then.”
“Ah. I knew it. Odo, the answer is simple. All you need to do is – “
“Pardon me, gentlemen.” The interloper wore a dapper suit with tie and trench coat. Dress and accent suggested early 21st-century England, with a touch of…something. Schizophrenia, perhaps? “I couldn’t help overhearing. You’re having lady problems, and I happen to be something of an expert. May I offer my assistance?”
Odo scowled. “And you are?”
“The Doctor, of course. Listen – Odo, was it? You’re made out of fluid? I mean, aren’t we all, but it’s a bit more fluidy in your case, isn’t it?” The Doctor’s lip curled as he looked him up and down. “Turn into any shape in the galaxy, can you?”
“That’s more or less what shape shifters do,” Odo said dryly. “Do I know you?”
“Doubtful! But listen, Constable, the solution is obvious. Here’s what you want to do. Transform into a loaf of bread. Get on a shuttle. Actually, get on the shuttle first, then turn into bread. The key thing is that you’re bread. Follow? Now, launch yourself into the corona of the Bajoran sun.”
“And why,” said Odo, “would I do anything as idiotic as that?”
“Because you, my friend, are toast.” The Doctor clapped him on the shoulder. “Cheers!”
They’re getting bolder, these ladies. Chomping on our fruit trees. Though it’s hard to be mad at them when it’s eight degrees outside.
When I opened the window to scare them off, this one leaped right over the fence like it was nothing.
What’s in your back yard?
Change is salvation.
My will has the power
to reify dreams.
My heart is still pumping.
I’m breathing in air.
My hands and my hunger
will conquer despair.