Some scientific studies have shown that what we call free will is actually the result of a series of causes and effects that occurs in our subconscious. They claim that we exist in a dream-like fugue state. Is this true?
The Creation of Destruction
¡@¡@Since ancient times humans have used the tradition of scholarship and the development of wisdom to conduct and develop our civilizations. But where does this drive for intellectualism and scholarship come from? Why do we crave wisdom? It is only through erudition and wisdom that we can have a free will, knowing who we are, where we come from, what we are meant to do, and where to do it.
¡@¡@When Cang Ji created the Chinese written language, the skies were changed, and the earth shook, and the lives between the two were forever changed. As recorded in Sema Qian’s Book of Histories the “heavens poured millet, and souls wept in the dark.” The account illustrates that with the creation of a written script, and the consequential development of civilization after it, human beings would have a completely altered life path. Humanity had obtained the capacity of attaining higher levels of wisdom, of creating greater civilizations, and in doing so, attaining an abundance of benefits and convenience. However, as in the Book of Genesis, when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of wisdom and gained the ability to discriminate between good and evil, the natural innocence and sincerity of the human spirit was dispelled. In the wake of building civilizations comes the possibility of equal amounts of destruction.
¡@¡@In our modern development of computer technology and with the advent of the smartphone, we have formed a union of man and machine. People walk down the streets with their heads bent down and fingers swiping; some are robbed blind and some even swipe themselves off the street, into traffic. Trivial matters of possession are causing more deadly conflicts than ever, even between family members and loved ones.
Equal and Opposite Forces
¡@¡@The intention of civilizing is to improve lives, to elevate the standards of humanity; however, when humans start crowding together under nationalism and militarism, they begin campaigns and destruction, using language and intellectual tools to empower themselves. When they reach a state of martial superiority, they begin wreaking havoc and destruction on those who oppose them, looting, raiding, and dominating their neighbors.
¡@¡@Civilization was developed for the expansion of human wisdom and potential; instead, what has resulted is a mirror of what happened to Adam when Eve, under the influence of evil, took the fruit from the tree of wisdom. Learning to separate Good from Evil, Right from Wrong may sound good, but it presents a conundrum because different cultures have different standards. Something that my people and I can accept, others may not. Who is in the right?
¡@¡@The purpose of civility or having a civilization is not to be able to judge between what is right and wrong. Civility is meant to give us reverence for life and all things in life. Only by working towards this attitude will humanity find greater hope in its existence. The present stance of modern social thinking chooses instead to put the emphasis on the indoctrination of democracy and Western thinking. What we find most in these models is sophistry, an environment that lacks respect for opposing opinions and outward thinking, where only prejudice grows strong.
All for One, but One for None
¡@¡@Democracy began in the city-state of Athens, in ancient Greece. However, that social system lasted for only two hundred years before it collapsed. It made a brief reemergence in the Dark Ages, but could not withstand the pressure of the times and vanished. Democracy remained untouched until the French Revolution, when it came back with capitalism and a modern judicial system. It had little in common with the democracy of ancient Greece.
¡@¡@Classical Democracy relied on the ethos and virtues of its subjects. It was a call to the righteousness and fairness of its people, which required its subjects to take critical responsibility for themselves as well as their society. Today’s democracy, however, is mercenary capitalism, judicially and morally absolute; it has successfully eradicated the core philosophies of democracy, and with it human kindness. The powers of today that have the most resources and capital run any democracy, using capitalism to colonize the world.
¡@¡@The original push for democracy started in goodness because the people at that time were purer and more idealistic. As democracy has grown in popularity since then, those with ulterior motives have connived to exploit the system, and democracy has begun to decay.
The Monstrosity of Civilization
¡@¡@Since all cultures began with their writing systems, the appearance of a written script was good. During the era known as “Nine Genres and Ten Schools,” when Chinese civilization developed to the Eastern Zhou dynasty, things became complicated with the presence of numerous philosophical schools-of-thought. They provided contradicting theories and general stubbornness. On the surface, the era of “Nine Genres and Ten Schools” showed an eclecticism of thought, a phenomenon which should have been helpful in the advancement of civilization; however, each school wished to have authority over the other schools of thought. Students of each school of thought believed firmly in their opinions, certain that they were the only ones who had found the truth. They argued incessantly with intellectual contention and since the philosophies of each school was not quite complete, the only thing that thrived was the construction of their egos.
¡@¡@The same phenomenon occurred in the Western world, passing from ancient Greece to ancient Rome. From ancient Rome onward, those areas of the Western world that were illiterate slowly began to have evidence of a written language. Everywhere in the world, writing was regarded with the utmost importance. As long as one was literate and had a sharp mind, they would succeed in life. But, when everyone was literate and educated, it became easy to disagree with different views and values. People in general don’t take lightly to any form of contradiction, and so contradiction easily becomes construed as confrontation. The creation of a written script and the creation of civilization are the equivalent of the endless unknowable possibilities of an opened Pandora’s box. Once the box was opened, both the potential greatness and monstrous possibilities of humanity came into fruition.
Finding Fidelity through the Classics
¡@¡@The Ancients had a devotion to their language and their scripts. They read with fidelity and reverence, cherishing each and every word, infusing the spirit of the teachings into their lives. Hence we have Confucius’ teaching, “Choose not a life against the way of benevolence, but accept one of sacrifice in the name of benevolence.”
¡@¡@Today we choose to cherish our computers, and we wait for hours in line for the latest smartphone. Who today would possibly choose to sacrifice their life, even if it meant peace and benevolence for the world? Who would find it possible to emulate the spirit and calling of the Southern Sung poet Wen Tianxiang as he contemplated the destruction of his home and country in the face of war? The last two lines of his poem, “Ferrying the Empty Sea” read, “At the shores of panic we chant our fears; an empty sea, we sigh for our desperation. From our past to present times, who has not faced the common state of death? Save your hearts and souls to keep, for the sweat and ink and blood of history.”
¡@¡@Life in the past was not as convenient as it is today. The people of ancient times had to grow their own crops and make their own tools. In all matters of food, clothing, shelter, and travel, the responsibility and labor was their own. Life was short and demanding. By contrast, in modern life we now can accomplish so much more by barely lifting a finger. With just a simple swipe on a screen and a tap of your finger, the whole world is within your reach. We can even do without books today since the Internet has everything. We have high tech gear and gadgets for all occasions. Our cameras don’t even need shutters anymore. Bit by bit, life is becoming mechanized and automated, so we’re left with only programmed responses like software. No longer does humanity have any more vitality and hardly any humanity left. Our thoughts are just reflections of the frequencies we have chosen to emulate, chosen from a selection of predefined personalities, or simple sensual reactions based in chemistry and primal conditions. This soulless regurgitation of input and output renders us like the "living dead bodies". How could there possibly be any free will left?
The Capability of Choice
¡@¡@The Ancients had stronger free will than modern people do. Zhang Qian led two expeditions to the western regions, discovering and permanently establishing the Silk Road. Ban Chao led thirty-six men into the far western regions of China and lived there for forty years, quelling and defending cities against the warring nations. When the people overthrew a corrupt lord of the Han dynasty, General Ma Yuan, known as The Pacifier of the Seas, brought peace to their violent rebellion in what is modern day Vietnam. These individuals had unparalleled strength and impetus inside them. They had the motivation to serve their nation and its people justly, and they understood the purpose and consequence of their actions. Many of us today work very hard, but lack the inner strength of autonomy.
¡@¡@We seek out and cram knowledge into our bodies and minds, but as we mature into adults, we are abandoned without any sense of direction. We just have a mass of information and knowledge racing about our minds without a center. Without a driving essence to engraft and implement this information, people will never know that the importance of being alive is to protect and establish the virtues and morals of the world past and yet to come. We should be responsible for the security of life and peace for those in our lives. We should humble and dedicate ourselves to the teachings of the Ancients, and live with a heart that wants to bring tranquility and promise to the world. Because of this lack of duty, the quality of the life today is trickling down into an abysmal stream.
The System Holds Me Fast
¡@¡@Modern people’s actions and words ride the tides of karma, swallowed by the waves of their own cause and effect. They cannot find their own footing on the currents they ride; they have little to no control over their environment. Their thoughts and emotions are predetermined by their own subconscious. Like the countless lives that were plugged-in to the system in the movie The Matrix, individuals today are void of meaningful existence.
¡@¡@On the surface we seem educated, well-read and very knowledgeable, but underneath there is no real ownership of the self, just very developed and strong egos. The more knowledge settles in our minds, the more petrified our consciousness becomes, fastening it firmly to the foundation of the ego, making it invulnerable to flexibility or suggestion.
¡@¡@People are too worried about their ego and their consciousness. Afraid that it might not be strong enough, they constantly empower their egos, rewarding it with the rationalization “because I like it” as an excuse for their actions. The sky’s the limit, no need for even an ounce of introspection. Thus, we never make any real realizations about life, and are effectively trapped by the daydreaming fugue state of our subconscious. In severe cases, we allow great psychoses to control us, resulting in atrocities such as the Columbine incident, the Newtown shootings, and the recent Taipei MRT subway massacre.
¡@¡@In May 2014, a young man in Taipei surnamed Zheng Jie took the MRT and traversed the entire length of one of its lines. On the return trip, he unsheathed two knives and committed mass murder, killing 4 and injuring 24 passengers. He admitted later that he had had thoughts of murder since childhood, and that his original plan was to wait until after he graduated from high school to commit the crime. On the day of the event, his subconscious was triggered by the forces of the universe that affect us daily, and just as if walking through a dream, he acted out the monstrous act. There was no self-control; he heard nothing from his conscience and saw no mercy.
¡@¡@The truth is that many of us experience the same things that Zheng Jie did. We’re consumed in a fugue, too, simply living in a dream. We’re just not as severely affected as Zheng Jie was, but still clueless about our actions and the reasons why we do them.
Fooled by the World
¡@¡@Modern education focuses on a student’s future, potential occupation, and potential for renown. Very few parents or teachers are impartial towards their children or students. With their ulterior motivations of fame, fortune, and power, they propel the pupil with aspirations of greatness, but all the while forgetting completely how to raise a balanced and moral human being. Teachers provide all the answers that they can and parents give in to every need that persists. They believe that what they give and what they answer can only be good for the child, unaware that what they’re doing is simply teaching the child to open their own Pandora’s box. Children follow their subconscious, lingering in a dream searching for pleasure from their boxes of treasure. Some children become consumed by video games, almost like being addicted to drugs.
¡@¡@Left to make their own decisions, children are more than likely to learn from the pleasurable and empowering, and not want to learn the harder lessons of sacrifice and humility. Children can very easily tune out the importance of virtue, because it is harder to understand and enact. As the whole world follows this trend, those with the ability to change the world will still do so, but very few of them will have the capacity to bring the world to a more stable and harmonious state. Instead, everyone wants to use their knowledge as power, but they lack the reverence that the Ancients had for the true value of wisdom.
¡@¡@Technological advancement was intended to broaden our life by providing convenience. By reducing of the amount of labor and exertion required in a day, we would have more time to seek nonmaterial happiness and spiritual soundness. However, as technological advancement has grown, and life tasks have become easier with washing machines, automated robotic vacuum cleaners, and online shopping, we actually have become more burdened than freed.
¡@¡@We are now expected to accomplish much more in a day’s time. In the past, when there weren’t any home appliances, we could only focus on one task at a time, and because of this limitation we weren’t as harried. Now that we have computers and smartphones, people tend to serve them. We are constantly working, reachable where ever we go, at any time of the day. The work that’s required of us is a mental labor that doesn’t demand any physical commitment. We simply must give our mind room so it ends up spending most of its time thinking about how to reap the greatest reward in every situation. By doing this, people lose their center and their morality dissipates. It’s only natural that people enter a subconscious state of going from one task to the next, as if following an illusion.
Practice Morality, Honor Ethics
¡@¡@Whether or not we benefit from our technological world without becoming consumed by it is dependent on our attitude and intentions in life. There needs to be reverence, as Cang Ji learned to have in his quest to create the Chinese writing script. He learned to humble his ego, to be weary of the course of human nature, to honor culture and respect knowledge, and to venerate the value of life.
¡@¡@The Ancient’s classical refinement of the “gentleman” was done with sculpting from the Six Arts, of which kungfu is the pinnacle. Cang Ji’s quest to invent the writing script and create a civilization emulates the discipline one undergoes through kungfu. Kungfu provides the practice of leading a meaningful and purposeful life, where every move is a reflection of an individual’s inner forces. These forces are used in the operation, recalibration, devotion, incarnation, and refining of this life. Through this constant molding and sculpting from the Six Arts, and through the experience of discipline with kungfu, we create stronger, more stable, and peaceful internal forces. Combining this energy with martial arts, we learn the power and beauty of compromise and respect. In this way, our actions and thoughts become the quelling harmonies to dissonance and find common ground with all distinctions. This crosses generations and continents, and even transcends the physical and enters into the hearts and minds of all living things. With this our lives now begin to seek a higher level.
¡@¡@A well-read, educated mind, without the capacity to enact the same wisdom through the Six Arts, can easily stray into the fugue, and become towed by their subconscious.
False Benevolence, False Righteousness
¡@¡@Our world is dominated by the Western mainstream media through the avenues of pop culture, Hollywood, and modern art. Whether it is intentional or not, western influences have effectively gained control over the thoughts and conscious of the common folk of Asia, Africa, and South America.
¡@¡@The citizens of Taiwan are disappointed that their own government is not more like the Western nations or that of Japan. Yet the people are unaware of the fact that in the past two hundred years, the effects of the colonial world have directly influenced our state of slower development. Those nations hijacked the world with their superior technology and destructive weaponry, proudly waving the banner of capitalist colonial-enterprises. On one hand they forcibly sold opium while on the other hand robbing, invading and occupying the rest of the world. The whole world was under colonial control. Although China was one of the few places that wasn’t colonized, she was annexed nonetheless.
¡@¡@During the Jia Wu year (1894), Japan took advantage of a weakened China in the Sino-Japanese War. It entered the theatre of colonialism as a major player with the wanton murder and oppression of its neighboring states. This year, one hundred and twenty years later, is the second Jia Wu anniversary of the Sino-Japanese War.
Achieving the Impossible
¡@¡@It is an objective observation to state that America is the new oppressor today. The power vacuum left by the colonial giants of the past has been filled by the major American business corporations of today. It begs the question of who has free will: the oppressors or the oppressed? Those sinfully manipulating others should not have the privilege to do-as-they-please, simply because it is done in the name of democracy and free trade. This is an act committed out of evil or in Chinese, the five vices from Buddhism (Greed, Hatred, Ignorance, Pride, and Doubt). The concept can additionally be related to the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings as it symbolizes and promotes the evil nature of its wearer.
¡@¡@Mencius believed that humanity had both virtuousness and wickedness in its nature. Acts that take root in the wickedness of our nature, even if done for achieving greatness, are still evil. The greatness of free will is in the purity of the spirit from the initiation of the action. Mencius said, “Man and beast have but a slight difference.” The slight difference is spiritual awareness and human insight.
¡@¡@Because the essence of free will is divorced from stubbornness, ulterior motivations, wickedness, evil, and the five vices, it generates a permeating atmosphere beginning within the individual. They possess incredible capacity, able to take on and let go any and all ventures. They are precise and succinct, without doubt or fear of loss. They thus have a pervading sense of clarity, becoming a beacon of virtue, and illuminating the world in the face of adversity.
Achieving the Unspeakable
¡@¡@Since those with power today simply do as they please, the definition of freedom in today’s democracy has been altered to be more synonymous with convenience or showing “little resistance.” During the Cold War, the US and USSR were evenly matched in their power and influence, which created peace through terror. The US used the media to vilify the Soviet Union and to glorify themselves, but the US’ actions remained relatively moral due to their values in the preservation of human life and a refined sense of duty.
¡@¡@Once the USSR collapsed, however, the American way transformed into “I do as I please because it pleases me,” replacing the few ethics of the previous generation with a questionable sleight of hand. The US of this era seemed to be spearheading the newly-formed democratic nations in the fight against the communization and the slavery thereof. However, America’s foreign policy (her involvement in Yugoslavia, the Czech Republic, Kosovo, both wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, as well as the conflicts in the name of the “balance of power in Asia,”) has only brought war and turmoil to the issue of freedom and slavery, scorching and bringing chaos to the world in the name of justice and human rights.
Restraining the Ego; Reinstating Etiquette
¡@¡@So much harm and pain is caused by humanity’s ignorance, wickedness, and our diabolic potential. Constantly we glorify and create synonymic titles to conceal and excuse the true intentions of our actions. Only by respecting the free will of others can our own will be free. Only by accepting and honoring the liberty of others can we demonstrate what it means to be “united through our differences.” The foundation is in a great conscience and a great heart, capable of trust and finding respect. This is the type of sincerity and respect shared between heroes.
¡@¡@A hero is an individual who can operate in the middle-way while keeping altruism intact. He is able to take responsibility as well as let go when he must. This is what it means to “restrain the ego to reinstate etiquette” and act accordingly to the demands of a situation. In other words, to stop on a dime and withdraw oneself, forego one’s title and take on the challenge.
¡@¡@The only people who can claim to be exemplars of humanity are those who have a massive heart and who can traverse all states of being, the stillness and void as well as the kinetic and chaotic. They do this while enveloped and guarded in the four corners of Chinese philosophy: Benevolence, Righteous, Etiquette, and Wisdom. Such paragons support heaven above and ground earth below with true free will.
If Only it Were Real
¡@¡@The confusion and correction that people experience from the acquisition of fame, riches and power is described in the song “If I Were For Real,” sung by Teresa Teng. In the Wang Toon movie with the same name starring Alan Tam, the protagonist is a conman who nearly succeeds in the end. He progress further and further in his trickery, fooling more and more powerful people who think he’s the real thing.
¡@¡@His is a situation where his success is based in whether or not his contortion of the truth is believed, and his failure is when he is exposed by the truth. It’s safe to say that the odds are against him. However, many cases of conning have success stories, especially those who are not exposed or discovered for years to come, which are then regarded as legends. If we consider that success in conning people is bad yet the theft of riches (as in a David vs Goliath type story) from those corrupted with power and riches is poetic justice, where would truth stand in a morally gray area? That is to say, where would free will exist in the presence of so many perspectives?
¡@¡@In Christianity, God wagered Satan that Job would not abandon his faith, and after all the suffering and loss imparted by both parties, Job still remained staunch in his faith. Did Job indeed have free will? Job’s tale in the world of belief shares the fate of those who are plugged into the matrix, programmed to the laws and algorithms of the world they exist in.
Self-Victory of the Self
¡@¡@The main character Neo from the movie The Matrix didn’t have free will until he reached enlightenment. This is the same free will as Song dynasty General Yue Fei had. He was executed despite having followed orders to wait in Xiangnan for the return of the foreign army. Following these orders meant abandoning certain victory in pursuing the enemy forces to Zhuxian. Despite his better judgment about the disastrous results that would occur in following these orders, Yue Fei used his free will to follow the orders given to him. This resulted in his eventual execution in the capital. Another example of using free will despite certain disaster is seen in Wen Tianxiang’s action not to be used by the victorious Kublai Khan’s Yuan army. Despite being enticed by the offer of a lucrative government position in return for encouraging his forces to surrender to the Yuan army, he used his free will to refuse it. He was executed by being dismemberment by five horses.
¡@¡@The Ching dynasty scholar, writer and poet Wang Guowei’s life and actions likewise show true free will. He used his free will to show his loyalty to the deposed Manchu emperor by choosing to drown himself instead of surrender to the revolutionary army which was entering Beijing. He said, “Last night the western wind felled the trees of emerald green. I took to my solitude up the stairs. I have become frail, and my clothes have since gone loose, but I have no regrets. I have been searching a thousand times over, in the crowds, the cities, the nation spent for them. Just then, as I came around again, I found them where they had always been, waiting beneath the light that I was blind to see.” Under the trials, the torment, the frustration, the rendering, the wrath, the panic; after countless exchanges from joy to loss, and loss to joy, and seeing all walks of life; learning sufferings from history, deciphering the secrets of the past, silently accepting and transmuting our experiences into rebirth, finding true freedom from severing the chains to our soul; so few have had the privilege in the course of history to have true free will.
Release the Self to Find Rebirth
¡@¡@In the film “The Legend of Zu,” the mystical hero Dan Zichen fell into madness, battling Hsuan Tianzhong in the Blood Pit for the enlightenment of Dao. Dan Zichen sacrificed himself, condemning himself so that Hsuan could have time to stop the true enemy at large. Master Gu Yue also learned to reclaim her heart of purity and true love after her crushing self-sacrifice.
¡@¡@Only when people enter such treacherous turmoil and true suffering, by keeping a heart of benevolence, mercy, sincerity and honesty divorced from passion, will they find free will. Otherwise, they are just slaves to the world, following the trends of the West. They put down the rest of the world, ignorant of the world’s conflict, its origin and malicious embedment in our subconscious. Understandably, they continue to believe that the will they have is a free one. Like zombies they remain blinded by the deception.
¡@¡@The only way to transcend this fugue is through the discipline of the Six Arts, through the inoculation of chikung and kungfu. Then we can infuse what we learn into our lives and unify it in our life to create real power. We can then generate life force, finding the impetus to “secure morality on this earth, and secure life and freedom for those around us; devote our learning to the lessons of the Ancients, and bring peace and tranquility to the world.” We can “choose not a life against the way of benevolence, but accept one of sacrifice in the name of benevolence.” Only then do we have the transcendent life of a being that has true free will.
Chi Kung Culture Society of TAIPEI