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What Chipotle and Blaze Pizza Taught Me About Free Will

If you know me well, then you know one of the greatest loves in my life is food. I’ve frequently labeled myself as a Dew-noissuer — a connoisseur of Mountain Dew — and I have also been known for my “frequent flyer miles” at Chipotle. I don’t talk about it as much, but I also do love Blaze Pizza; I just don’t eat it as often because it’s not as close to my house.

Anyway, in the town where I live, Blaze Pizza is directly adjoined to a Chipotle. They share the same parking lot, and their entrances are about 15 steps apart. Both of the “fast casual” type, they’re pretty comparative in price, so if you’re like me and enjoy both equally, then the choice of whether you choose one over the other really boils down to what mood you’re in at the time.

We’ll come back to our food pals in a minute, but this whole post started after reading a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita and some of the sentiments of free will shared in there. The general argument the author made was that choice is an illusion, that we are merely living out the karma of paths already laid out before us. And holistically, he’s not wrong. I write this post because I was born in this age to a family line that made decisions that all led to this point. My mom being from Ecuador, I could have easily been born and raised there, and then this post would have been written in español.

This view isn’t just limited to a Hindu worldview. I’ve also seen it take form in the Christian church. You know, that old argument about predestination? It might not use the same language as “fulfilling your karma,” but it gets to its conclusion in the same path.

Neither of these views sit well with me. I’m okay with the idea that decisions were made that led me to this point, but both almost make it seem as if my future actions are illusory and farsical. It makes it seem like murderers have an excuse for murdering, ya know? “Oh, I’m just living out my karma, dum dee dum.”

Yeah… right.

So let’s return back to our Chipotle/Blaze combo. There is an undeniable fact that you as an individual likely had little to no influence in bringing those two franchises together in that exact spot. You also likely had a friend that encouraged you to try either at some point in time, and again, you likely had no influence in your friend’s encouragement. So far, our free will argument is playing out pretty poorly, right?

Except let’s think about this: pretend you are a guy or gal and are driving past this Chipotle/Blaze combo looking for a place to eat on your lunch break from work. We’ve already noted that there is no particular influencer like price that would cause you to automatically prefer one to the other. This choice is entirely up to you.

Does this choice matter?

Well, let’s throw in the caveat that you’re single. In Chipotle is the love of your life whom you will meet for the first time. You two court for a while, then get married, have kids, and one of those kids goes on to cure cancer.

What if you happened to choose Blaze instead? You may never meet that person, so you won’t have that baby genius curing cancer.

Gives a whole new perspective on what seemed like an insignificant decision, no?

I write this post for two reasons. First, there is an undeniable fact that we are where we are largely due to circumstances wholly out of our control. It’s important to acknowledge that because it helps to give grace to others whom we might not be inclined to empathize with. So when you see Ron in the office tomorrow grumbling about his day once again just like he does every other day, know that Ron is likely the way he is because he lived a life mostly out of his control. He could have had an abusive alcoholic father that hardened him to the world. Baby Ron didn’t choose to be born into that family just as you didn’t choose to work in accounting with Ron.

(Sorry to all Ron’s reading this. As I’ve learned from Rob Bell, it’s more fun to give real names to these fake situations!)

The second reason is that though we do indeed have the ability to shape the future by our actions. It makes more sense for us to fulfill our karma by acting out our childhoods as adults, and you might be surprised at how often this happens. Go listen to anything involving Dr. Drew, and I guarantee he’ll affirm this: children of abusive alcoholic parents often become abusive alcoholic parents themselves later on in life.

But that future isn’t set in stone. We can choose a different life. The child of the abusive parent can choose a better life for her child when she grows up to have kids. Likewise, the alcoholic parent can choose to give up their addiction to live a better life. Even though we cannot choose what age and location we’re born into, these decisions have weight and can be very impactful.

I hope this gives you some encouragement, and don’t get too hung up on the Chipotle/Blaze example. I just chose it because it was fun, but you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you chose Blaze and missed out on meeting the love of your life. There’s no way you could have known the implications of your actions in that scenario, but there are plenty of scenarios where you can plausibly “guesstimate” the outcomes.

Let’s wrap this post here. Go enjoy a burrito or pizza. Catch you in the next post.

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