Once I was talking with a good friend about some strange coincidences happening to me, like looking for some answers in life just to accidentally find books, articles, or lines that indicate some answers or hints to them. I was trying to explain this phenomena partially through the fact that life is a complex system and that every part fits together.
My friend’s opinion however was that because we have some questions in our mind, our brain keeps scanning for solutions without us necessarily noticing. So the answers to our questions are there, but we only start to notice them because they fit to the question in our mind. He coined a very interesting metaphor that I am using often in my thinking.
” What I often feel is that pieces of a story go together along the day, like a jigsaw. Basically, it happens that I get some information matching with something I’ve heard just before. So, I may hear of someone looking for a private teacher and then meeting someone else who is looking for a job as private teacher. Or a piece of news which is the answer of a TV quiz. Or, simply, links among different information sources and elements appear all of a sudden in a clear way.”
I later told him that I’m going to call this a jigsaw puzzle theory of life.
His explanation is very plausible and easy to comprehend. Personally I agree with what he says and I think his example explains how it happens, how life provides answers to questions we have. However, I think the background theory to explain the mechanism behind it could be Bertalanffy’s General System Theory, or at least parts of it. Of course I’m using this theory in a very loose, informal, and probably uniformed way, and how the general system theory applies to life is by itself a theory, a least a personal one. Nevertheless, here is how I see it.
Everything is a system, including life. Each system has subsystems, or is part of a supersystem. Also, each system has inputs, processing, and outputs. The outputs of co, super- or subsystem are the inputs of another co, super-, or subsystem. So the question we have in our life represent some new requirement for our brain, a very complex system, and the answers come from some other complex system(s).
A very important aspect in systems is control. There are so called self controlling systems, like living organisms. Self controlling systems are system that have a set of instructions (or code) determining what actions to undertake, or more precisely which output to process given a specific input. The way I see it is that life itself is a self-controling system. Otherwise how can we explain that at any given situation with infinite possibilities, we get by accident the answer to a specific question we have in mind?
But then a question begs itself: who designed that self controlling system called life, and who wrote its code? And are we as humans controlled by one?
Its clear that by now our discussion has reached a very high philosophical level, concerning the creation and purpose of life, as well that of free will.
I believe that that there is an ultimate creator of our world. Just like it is absurd to assume that an app with all the design, logic, and coding is created by itself through pure chance and without any given purpose behind it, we can’t assume that our world was not created by a wise creator who has designed everything in its finest form and given everything a purpose and function. I see the argument of creation by chance impossible, because probability theory, the same theory that this argument is supposedly based on, makes this argument impossible. How can a system work, not to mention build itself, when there are infinite alternatives that it won’t work or be built? There must be a force with will that chooses one between the infinite alternatives.
As for the question about free will, the coding metaphor might be helpful in proposing a theory about how free will works. Just like an app can be smart and have some built in artificial intelligence that enables it to learn our behaviour and adapt itself to it, but still be limited, regardless of how brilliantly designed it is, so might be our limitation and capabilities as humans to choose what we want do, but nevertheless be limited to some option, even if they seem infinitely many. And just like an app can have a backdoor that the programer only knows and used to manipulate the behaviour of the app manually, so is the manipulation of human behaviour possible by the creator of humans. And just like it doesn’t mean that a programmer, although being able to manually manipulate the app, is going to do that all the time, so it is the case with the creator and its humans.
Of course, I’m being here pretty shallow with my lame attempts to answer the question regarding the secrets of life. Humans are not apps. And the creator is mightier and wiser than any programmer in the world. Nevertheless I think that it is a useful exercise to use the metaphors of the jigsaw puzzle, systems theory, and computer coding to think about the world around us. Conceptualising things using different theories and world views enhances the awareness of our surroundings.