This essay was originally written and performed for Write Club Atlanta, a monthly competitive writing event.
Okay, so I’m here to defend free will. A lot of people have tried to crush free will throughout history, mostly so they could have more sex or live in bigger houses. In fact, if someone is trampling any of your rights, there’s usually a guy in a mansion who wants a bigger mansion at the top of the rights-crushing pyramid. Maybe with bikini girls dancing around his pool. Of course, going by that logic, MC Hammer in his video “Pumps and a Bump” wants to crush your free will more than Idi Amin ever could.
Free will is one of the most prized aspects of the human experience, and many have risen to defend it when it is threatened— Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mel Gibson in Braveheart, Captain Crunch versus the soggies. And yes, I equate freedom with free will. If they are not the same cupcake, then one is surely the frosting and the other is the spongy cake beneath.
But I also think it’s free will’s fault we’re stuck on this planet. It’s right there in our origin story, if you were to count the bible as our origin story. At the very least, it’s an origin story. Of course, Batman’s parents getting shot is an origin story too, but you don’t see anyone starting a holy war over Batman except on internet message boards.
Anyway, free will being to blame for us being marooned here on Earth. You’ve got Adam and Eve, you’ve got the forbidden fruit, the knowledge of good and evil, etc., and so on. And of course the serpent, the devil with his forked tongue, because he’s a snake, the sorting hat putting him in Slytherin. Actually, there’s some Harry Potter fan fiction for you. The devil goes to Hogwart’s, gets under the Sorting Hat and the Sorting Hat yells, “Hufflepuff!” Next thing you know Professor Sprout is wearing dark eye makeup and having orgies.
Now let’s take the biblical story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden as a metaphor for whatever intelligent life predated our current existence. An actual paradise full of alien life somewhere else on the other side of the universe, some other dimension, who knows. What we do know is they have free will and they’ve managed to make it work. Lush meadows, hoverships, iPads, rivers of chocolate run by Gene Wilder and no one ever, ever, ever talks or text messages in a movie theater after the trailers begin.
And let’s say these perfect creatures, these Kardashians of the universe, they invent a new form of life in their image. Similar in shape and appearance, but like children, innocent. Mouths hanging open at the wonders around them, like when you see a framed commemorative Dale Earnhardt “The Intimidator” plate at a gas station. And this new form of life, these humans, they don’t know what bad is. They don’t even know they have the choice to do bad.
So Satan, or the Morning Star, or Steve Jobs- whatever you want to call him, he exercises his own free will to give the human race a magnificent, awful gift. The same ability to choose that everyone else in the garden has. But as soon as he lifts the veil from their eyes, there’s going to be trouble. Violence, war, slavery, injustice, T.G.I. Friday’s, lapdances where the stripper doesn’t really seem that into you, the Star Wars prequels- all of these horrible things are on the table now. Suddenly, the human race has terrible, nightmarish options.
And these beautiful, wise Yoda-like aliens (or maybe just the old man with the white beard, I’m not ruling anything out), they must have looked around and seen what was coming. All the centuries of famine and brutality to come as mankind learns to keep his balance on the world’s most dangerous bicycle. And they probably said, “We’ve got to get these humans the fuck off our planet.”
So they put us here eons ago. Quarantined. Every other planet, star or black hole as hostile to our survival as the corner of Ponce and Monroe. Absolutely no chance of us stumbling onto other intelligent life and finding out what they taste like, because let’s face it- if you’re another sentient creature on this planet and you can’t dial a telephone or pass the Iowa Test of Basic Skills we’ll probably try to turn you into food at some point.
All of that having been said, I still believe free will is the best thing that ever could have happened to us. Those wise old aliens, they probably had to be marooned on a rock for millions of years before they worked out the secret to making daiquiris actually taste like what suntan lotion smells like and making polyamorous marriages work in practice and not just on paper. Maybe once we’ve dropped the training wheels and figured it all out (world peace, jetpacks), they’ll welcome us back with open arms to the Garden of Eden. And then we will open fire with the laser guns that we’ve built into our fingertips. And it will have been our choice to have done so, thanks to our most wonderful quality— free will. Thank you, good night!