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Free Will: Use It Or Lose It

December 14, 2011 by Giulietta Nardone

The other night, Jimmy and I decided to watch a movie. He flipped through the choices stopping on The Adjustment Bureau (TAB) starring Matt Damon. At first I said, “No way am I watching another film where Matt Damon plays a buff but emotionless character, (usually some kind of assassin or hero), or a character without emotion.

Then I realized the terrific Emily Blunt played his love interest. I adored her in The Devil Wears Prada and decided to give the movie a chance. ***Spoiler ahead***


Surprisingly, the plot based on a 1954 science fiction¬†novelette called The Adjustment Team by Philip K. Dick drew me right in. If you haven’t seen TAB, a likable guy (David) runs for a New York senate seat when some typical college pics surface and cause him to lose the race. Why these seemingly benign pictures caused him to lose the race didn’t make sense to me, but I discovered the reason later in the film.

The night of his senatorial demise he meets Emily Blunt (Elise) in a bathroom where they click and kiss. Great chemistry. Then they get separated only to be reunited and then separated and reunited and separated.

In this film, every person has his or her life mapped out for them by the Chairman of The Adjustment Bureau. When a person gets off the map, the guy assigned to trail said person adjusts the person’s brain to get them back on track. In David’s case, they decide not to readjust him and instead warn him that if he tells anyone about TAB they will erase his mind. They also warn him to forget about Elise.

But he can’t.David’s unending love for Elise proves to be an uber challenge for TAB teams. So much so that his compassionate pseudo-angel of sorts Harry Mitchell, helps him get to her by lending him his hat, which has the power to let the wearer use doors as wormholes to quickly traverse the city.

After keeping his knowledge of TAB secret for three years, he finally has to tell Elise (in another bathroom) to keep her from marrying someone she doesn’t really love.

I loved the movie because David refused to obey. He refused to stay on the beaten path. He refused to give up trying to be with Elise. The theme “love conquers all” kept weaving its way through the film.

And the voice over at the end blew me away (much like the voice over at the end of my beloved “Summer of ’42. Guess I’m a sucker for a good voice over.)

David’s pseudo-angel Harry Mitchell said, “Most people live life on the path we set for them. Too afraid to explore any other. But once in a while people like you come along and knock down all the obstacles we put in your way. People who realize free will is a gift, you’ll never know how to use until you fight for it. I think that’s The Chairman’s real plan. And maybe, one day, we won’t write the plan. You will.”

Beautifully said! Everything I’m talking about on this blog and in my life shops.

Get off the path others have selected for you and find your own. Activate your free will or you will lose it. You will become so frightened and frozen, that you will not be able to make decisions in your own best self interest.

I talk with folks who have convinced themselves that working to buy generic stuff makes them happy. The crowded malls with their chain stores attest to that fact. If I just get the latest gadget, I’ll feel good about myself.¬†That was not my experience. The stuff did not feel like a reward for staying on the path. No reward existed that would make me feel happy on that path.

I had to get off or I was going to perish.

How about you? Do you feel that you use your free will or someone else’s unfree will? And is The Adjustment Bureau sci-fi or does it really exist?

Many thanks, Giulietta

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10 Responses to “Free Will: Use It Or Lose It”

  1. Jenni says:

    I LOVED that movie. Such a unique concept. In fact, that would be a good stocking stuffer for my husband… cause I want to see it again! :P

    Thank you for your sweet comment on my blog today!
    Jenni recently posted..The World Needs More Love Letters

    • Hi Jenni,

      I’m glad we connected through Hannah’s More Love Letters project. Been meeting such lovely folks!

      It doesn’t surprise me we both loved the movie. It’s about love! Great blog and following you’ve got. Take care. G.

  2. Wonderful stuff. I didn’t mind the spoiler; you’ve made me want to see the film. (I probably would have passed it over for the same reasons you gave.)

    I haven’t been able to follow the path set for me by others. Sometimes this has made my life so “out there” I was virtually alone on my own planet. But I can’t do the cookie-cutter thing. (Correction, I did do it in my first marriage but that ended in divorce after years of numbness.)

    I do think The Adjustment Bureau exists in our society and it’s very seductive. It’s all around us, right in front of people’s noses.
    Fear of Writing recently posted..Care and Feeding of My Muse

    • Hi Milli!

      Good to see you here. The voice-over at the end of the film ought to be required listening in the schools.

      Congrats on creating your own path, even if you felt alone at times. Cookie cutters are for making cookies not people! The Stepford Wives comes to mind as another sci-fi type movie that’s more real than folks want to believe.

      Great point about the seduction of The Adjustment Bureau. It can be really hard to see what’s in front of our own noses.

      That numbness you mention from you first marriage can extend to our field of vision.

      Thank you for lending your always refreshing voice. G.

  3. Michael says:

    Phillip K Dick is amazing, so liking TAB was a no-brainer for me, even if they (naturally) took liberties. As for fantasy or reality, I think that it’s sci-fi as metaphor. Think The Matrix. Dissent is the only real choice we have at the moment, yeah?
    Michael recently posted..some days are better than others

    • Hi Michael,

      I want to thank you for introducing me to the necessity of dissent on this blog a few years ago.

      Before your revolutionary comment I thought we had to just participate by
      voting if we wanted a democracy.

      After you said that it “changed” how I viewed everything. If we want freedom or free will, we must constantly challenge what we are told, especially “the rules.” (Who writes the rules anyway?) Without challenge we become prisoners of our own lives/minds/governments/corporations.

      Ironically, most people do not see their own role in any kind of freedom. They think you “vote” in the private little booth, blow up other countries and go home to play with your consumer toys.

      That’s what we’ve been “adjusted” to do.

      I always speak at town meeting and last time some folks seated near me got annoyed every time someone got up to speak. Why come if you’re going to rubber stamp everything? Is that really voting?

      Many thanks for your challenging comments over the years! G.

  4. Even when you know you’re on your authentic path, the long arm of society’s expectations and definitions of success (TAB)can plant self-doubt in the back of your mind. I will be 50 next month (yikes), and as I’ve pondered how in the world 50 years has gone by, I’ve questioned whether it would have been an “easier” life to have just given in to the corporate/music advertising career I had initially set out to do. It may have been easier on the pocketbook and I’d have a tidy sum put away for my golden years, but I know it would have sucked the soul right out of me! I’m grateful that finding my own path and being true to it was more important than the gold watch…

    Thank you, Giulietta! I may not comment often, but your writing always touches and inspires me…
    Lisa Capehart recently posted..Makin’ a List, Checkin’ it Twice…

    • Hi Lisa,

      What a brilliant way of stating it,”The long arm of society’s expectations and definitions of success can plant self-doubt in the back of your mind.”

      Our definition of success is truly warped and generic. How can everyone want the same “dream”?

      I heard a woman in line at a store going on and on about her children’s successes and all of it was generic and work related. Nothing about who they were as people or hobbies they loved. Just the awards they won, salaries. job titles, etc.

      It felt sad.

      I’m always happy to see you here. Thank you for taking the time to drop in.

      g.

  5. Penelope J. says:

    Giulietta,

    You have just given me a good reason to watch “The Adjustment Bureau” again. I think the film’s message was lost on me before – don’t know why because it’s a great one.

    I’ve said it before and I repeat, I’m a believer in free will and not following the norm, but this belief has led me down some very odd paths and often, I’ve come to grief because I’ve lived life on my own terms rather than on the ones imposed on me by elders, society, conventions, etc. On the positive side, at least I have LIVED, which is something many people who refused to take risks, be adventurous, do what they wanted vs. what they were supposed to do, have not.

    Would I exchange my life experiences and modest living circumstances for their compromised, much better-off lifestyle? Definitely not. All I have to do is compare my life with my sister’s – married at 20 to a man she knew would be a good provider who became a millionaire, her life seems to be a series of frustrations and petty annoyances that affect her entire family’s well being. Sometimes, I feel guilty that I can rejoice in my independence even if it came at a high cost.
    Penelope J. recently posted..Never Give Up on Your Dream

    • Hi Penelope,

      I’m with you. I prefer the odd paths. In the end, they offer less frustrations than the common paths.

      People suffer in different ways. What looks like a Hallmark Card scene can be anything but that.

      Sounds like your sis pays a high cost as well. Maybe, we all do?

      Appreciate you checking in to the blog! G.

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