Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fatalism, Free Will or None of the Above

I just finished watching the latest new episode of Supernatural,{Thanks Natalie!} "The Monster at the End of This Book". (Great title by the way.) And I'm intrigued by the idea of this modern day prophet. He channels an uncontrollable power which is ultimately used to record events as if it's the new gospel. Filtering the events through this medium, they are recorded as he sees fit. The prophet is trapped. Enslaved- with no way to stop the message, and then the urge to capture it on a page, trying to do it justice. Writing and rewriting, only to find out what you're seeing is coming to pass. (Castiel's dry one liner, "You should have seen Luke" made me smile.)

I loved that the prophet was just as tortured, just as trapped as the participants. But it made me uncomfortable with the ideology of predetermination, or fate. I've never been keen on the idea of fatalism. It chafes and becomes an irritating sore spot on my mind. I much prefer the idea of free will over destiny. Prideful, spoiled being in this great wide world that I am, honing and sharpening my denial of my insignificance in the grand schematic, I desperately cling to the hope that the path of life is more meaningful than a predesignated walk through. I don't want to feel like one of those mathematical "proofs" I was forced to complete in high school geometry class where each step begets the next until its logical conclusion.

Maybe I could be content with the "All roads lead to Rome" philosophy. No matter how you choose along the way, the different paths you take will inevitably lead you to the same destination. As long as I get to choose how I get there. I could be okay with that. Maybe.

Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books? When they first came out, I always enjoyed them. But then came the moment when you decide to try and take every path, and experience every storyline it contains. After all, they offer finite possibilities. It was a challenge at first, but eventually I found it depressing. Each path I chose forced me through stilted cattle chutes to an predetermined end. Just not my idea of fun.

So, fatalism or free will? Chance or fate. Chaos or ultimate design? Either way, this - Life - is still the only game in town. And we're here now, so at the very least we should try to enjoy the ride.


Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I pretty much feel the way you do.

But it's really just a philosophical idea we can only "experience" through fiction, because we can never redo anything to prove whether or not we wind up in the same place. So whether or not we can "change" things is irrelevant because we can never know what is "meant to be."

But insofar as fiction goes...SPN seems to be playing with both possibilities. On the one hand, Castiel tells Dean in "In the Beginning" that he can't change what's destined. But what was destined was something that already happened, so of course it couldn't be changed.

Then we have The Prophet Chuck *giggle*. Everything happens just like he wrote it...except when he doesn't, or it doesn't. He didn't write the blood drinking, so those who read the Winchester Gospel in centuries to come won't even know it happened--therefore, did it?

He apologized for not giving "Bugs" and "Red Sky at Morning" another pass, and at other moments talks about the craft of writing. You mentioned the word "filter"--that's exactly what he is, and his interpretation of things isn't necessarily accurate.

That's how I see the whole Lilith thing. He saw them in bed, but "fiery passion" either didn't happen (meaning things CAN be changed) or he saw it wrong, which means he can see other things wrong. Either way, it seems to me they're showing that free will exists.

Ava Quinn said...

I agree. They're teasing both sides of the argument.

I laughed at "the prophet Chuck" name too.

I think the blood drinking did happen. I used the word filter and medium on purpose. His spin, his lens, his take is what is coming through. Is it fair? I don't know. I think Chuck was portrayed as a very sympathetic character, but that's Kripke's lens - or whoever the writers were for the ep - leading us.

I giggled at Chuck's persona as a writer. So nervous about his writing craft.

Really enjoyed the episode and the ideas it raised.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I think the blood drinking did happen.Well, yeah, silly, of course it did. I meant it in a "tree falls in the forest" kind of way. LOL

Ava Quinn said...

Sorry. Didn't complete my thought on the blood drinking thing. (Imagine that. I got distracted. Who'da thunk it?)

I was going to say that I liked that he left out an actual event that happened. It gave it another layer of questions and ethics. Absolute truth versus smoothing over some ugly parts.

I also wonder now that he knows them and that they are actual people, will he continue to gloss over the rough spots or because he has the responsibility of being a prophet to the world hanging over his head, will he try to be as accurate as possible?

Good thinking questions. Well done Supernatural writers! I wonder if he shows up in any other episodes? It's pretty safe to say that they can't kill him off since he has such a powerful guardian angel.

I liked him. Hope they use him again.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I always found it interesting that people can take the Bible so absolutely when we know humans were writing things down, and why wouldn't they pick and choose what to say or how to say it--just like Chuck does?

I tend to think that he would be even more careful what he'd put down than before. Less glossing, maybe, but he likes the guys and understands the pressure on them and I think that sympathy would color how he writes things down. I would, anyway. :)

Definitely kudos to the writers for giving us to much to think and talk about! :)

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