Anthony Malcolm: Dissecting the Bunny, Caressing The Frog

Dissecting the bunny, caressing the frog.

 

I’m choosing to write this now.

Or maybe I’m not.

 

I’m writing this now because it’s due tomorrow, and I’m choosing to write it, rather than let down the editor.

Why did I choose to put it off? I’ve been thinking about it, a lot. I’ve been thinking about other things. I’m not sure if the things that I’ve been thinking about are the things I’m going to write. I’m not sure if the things I’ve been thinking about are the things I was supposed to be thinking about, or the things that I’m going to write are going to be the things I should write.

 

But why did I choose not to let down the editor? She and I owe each other little. She’s starting an arts zine, and I’ve recently chosen to stop being an artist, or at least, have chosen to stop calling myself an artist. I’ve still chosen to make art in the future, or at least, have chosen to tell people that I’ll continue to make art in the future. And I have a similar drive not to let those people down that I do not to let this editor down. What made me choose either of those? My recent thoughts say it would be maybe sociological institutionalism. Rational choice must have very little to do with it, as at one point, I chose to make art, and I’m choosing to write for a free zine, and now I’ve chosen to go back to school to maybe one day work…doing something, I suppose. But I’m definitely not maximizing my utility, I didn’t choose to work in banking, I didn’t choose to create fake bank accounts so as to drive the idea of growth, so that choice must be influenced by cultural factors, signals, language, inter and intrapersonal relationships. But at the end of the day, I still chose to do it.

 

I think I chose. I think? I think I’m tired of choices. I think I’m tired of I.

 

Dissecting the bunny, caressing the frog.

 

What is a choice?

 

A choice, an act of choosing, not only implies, but actually requires option. It requires an alternative. It can be a binary choice, or a multitudinous choice, but whatever the choice, it requires something not chosen. If one, then zero. If all of the above, then none of the above. And the choice also requires an actor. The person chooses to eat the crunch bar. This of course, works by the simple mechanism of the person’s brain choosing to want a crunch bar, because the person’s stomach chose to be hungry and their tongue chose to want a crunch bar. Except, of course, that’s silly. It was their brain that chose to want a crunch bar, because of the advertisements they’d seen, or, no, it’s simpler than that, it’s that the neurons in the person’s brain chose to fire in a certain way so as to…

 

To the best of this authors knowledge, in the entire philosophical community, no one has come up with a compelling argument for the idea of choice existing. If simple physical rules hold true, such as the rule that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, than the existence of the universe is simply the worlds largest Goldberg machine. There is no special choice particle that only exists in the human brain, nothing that creates output without input, there are no stochastic events. In the scientific community, there is sometimes a suggestion of stochasticity in quantum mechanics, but this is problematic because 1) quantum mechanics only seems to suggest the randomness or uncertainty of event at the quantum level, not the choice of event, 2) this randomness would mean that events are not determined, but are random, and thus are still not chosen, and 3) no one understands quantum mechanics.

 

But it’s inescapable. Free will, choice, is the pillar of liberal capitalism, a language that frames every human interaction. Our countries are filled with freedom of opportunity, people are successful because of their personal choices, the wage gap is explained away by individual choices, every choice is just so rational because it would be irrational to choose to do the wrong things, so those who do wrong, who of course, chose to be in situations where their decision making skills were impacted, and even in this paragraph, this language is inescapable. Success, rationality, wrong, individual, decision. It is normative. In academia, it bleeds everywhere, a journal openly declares that the world is deterministic, and then ignores that statement and begins talking about rational choice theory and executive decision and liberty.

 

And this has bled into the art. The stories of the brave individual choices. The separation of the actor from the ensemble, the glorification of leading roles, the separation of role, as if a writer isn’t in constant reaction to the world around themselves, that the performers onstage are not a part of, and thus creating the design and directing the piece, that the designer and writer do not direct a piece as much as any given director, that a director is not performing their existence through the guidance of art. The idea that any of the artists created anything and that they were not simply present and conscious while the universe, that great determinist muse, manifested another beautiful object in time. Instead, it was created by individuals, because the individual actor needs to win a dora so they can be successful, and the director needs to pay their bills, and the playwright needs to move to television, and everyone will forget about the designers. But they will all keep creating. Each creation will be a declaration of independence, and so they are all poor students of Thomas Jefferson, and thus are we all.

 

Dissecting the bunny, caressing the frog.

 

How do I close the determinist box? I don’t know. I know that I won’t choose to, but it will happen. I’ll carry the idea of free will around with me like a security blanket. I’ll stand at the fridge tomorrow and decide whether I want peanut butter and honey or peanut butter and jam, and I’ll feel like I made the choice. And the event will happen. Spoiler alert, it’ll be honey. I’ll choose to write another play, and I’ll choose to send it in, and the director will choose to not take it. This event will happen. It just did, it will likely happen again. I’ll think about suicide for a passing moment, or for a day, or constantly for years, and I’ll make continuous choices not to do it. And it will pass, or it won’t, and that event will happen.

 

This was written, and it was the quality it was, and that was the only way it was going to be. But even as I’m writing this I’m thinking “I’ll write something better next time.” And maybe I will. Maybe the circumstances of writing this will make me think in a more aesthetically pleasing way when I’m asked to do something again, or it will be inconsequential, but some other series of events will change my existence temporarily.

I don’t know how this ends. It seems to not. And I’ve been staring at this section for minutes now, wondering what I can say, or really, wondering if I’m going to type something. I suppose I probably will. That event will happen. It has now. It’s finished. And I didn’t choose to do it, but I experienced it and enjoyed it nonetheless. I know I dissected the bunny. I do that every day. But did I caress the frog? Did I make anything better? I think about those times that I was a part of something beautiful. Those great plays, those great friendships, those great sights. And I didn’t really choose any of them. But I was there. No, we were there. That happened. And that is something.

Editor’s Note:  Anthony Malcolm is currently a Toronto-based playwright and a recent graduate of The Soulpepper Academy. 

 

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