A drive to survive is common to all living things from viruses on up, as I see it anyway. In somewhat higher forms of life, we see this as the survival instinct.
This survival instinct must be regarded as a fundamental emotional drive in any animal we think of as having emotion, although I suppose there are those who believe only humans have emotion, but no matter.
This will-to-live emotion is most apparent when an animal is cornered, and must dig deep within itself to overcome obstacles to survive.
This Saharan Desert tree is clearly striving to survive. Does it experience a will-to-live? Do plants have emotion or instinct? The answer to this lies in the eye of the beholder, or in accordance with some biological definition agreed upon by the ‘powers the be’. In something like a virus, which is even harder to imagine as having emotion, I still see a will-to-live, pure and mysterious though it may be.
This Morning’s Ah ha Moment
I just realized that in we thinking animals, the will-to-live emotion influences thought and quite naturally leaves us with the impression that we have free-will. Up to this point, I’ve thought of ‘free will’ as a belief, either implied or explicit mostly. It is that, but runs considerably deeper than I imagined. It works better to think of the free-will sensation as an emergent property of thought and the core emotions of need and fear.
While I touched on this recently in Of Free Will, I Am, this peels back yet another layer, another angle, another ‘part of the elephant’. I now see how the sensation of free-will must have come hand-in-hand with our ability to imagine. This makes it primal and profoundly more ancient that I dreamed, even yesterday! Let me explain…
If nothing else, an imagining mind offers the beholder a neurological space where sensation is free to roam. We can imagine any scenario we fancy, unconstrained by actual realities. For example, I can imagine having wings and flying without harm. On the other hand, a drug induced hallucination that feels so real I jump off a cliff to fly is otherwise; gravity bring me down to earth, back to reality.
Sure, our free-will hallucination is more subtle, but perhaps just as dangerous. We are free to imagine alternative time-lines, which influence will at every turn. This sensation enables us to expect the impossible to be possible, to beat ourselves up in guilt-ridden illusions of Self-perfection.
This imaginary ‘free will zone’ combines with our primal will-to-live and imparts a sense of free-will even if we know free-will is a fiction! It is truly insidious, and ironically, probably increases with ‘intelligence’ if we lack the wisdom to see through this bio-hoodwink. i.e., Homo sapiens, ( Latin: “wise man”). Yes, ‘sapiens’ is more of an evolutionary goal than a current reality.
I am in awe. I am humbled. I am determined to be more vigilant. No, not through free will, but because I recognize the spontaneity-robbing misdirection this hallucination causes.