Monday, February 9, 2009

The gift of choice.

I was thinking today about the concept of agency. The basic idea is that we can make our own choices, but what does that really mean?

Essentially, we are animals. We like to think of ourselves in terms of our achievements or ideas and especially the things we do. But we are beings of flesh. We are made up of bones, blood, muscles, joints, tendons and sinews. On a microscopic level, our bodies are simply billions of cells working together. Like all animals, we need to eat, drink, sleep, and have shelter. Like all animals, most of our bodily processes are involuntarily controlled by the firing of neurons within our brains. Somehow the nerves communicate with each other and this makes our hearts beat and our lungs process oxygen and our food digest. I am almost overwhelmed when I consider what a wonderous thing my body really is. It is so proficent at keeping me alive so that I can experience life. But our human bodies do one other thing for us. Our brains have a huge oversized cerebral cortex- and this allows us to actually make choices.

This is our agency. We have the ability to look at any situation and consider it, to reason, to learn and to put the things we learn into practice. We have the ability to communicate with each other in more depth and with more meaning than any other creature on this planet. Isn't it incredible to consider that billions of individual cells can somehow work all together to do the things that we choose to do? You could never get billions of people to work together in this way!

I am a religious person, and so I believe that this miracle is a gift from God. Whether or not you agree, it seems apparent to me that these fleshy brains of ours are the instruments through which we develop and grow. This ability that we have to make choices for ourselves gives us the opportunity to form ourselves. We can each ultimately decide the type of human beings we are going to be- because we have these amazing bodies that give us agency.