the science and soul of an innocent world


Laughter Feed

BPJ Laughter Feed

Subscribe to BPJ RSS
Laughter Feed

Enter your email:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Free Will is a Crippling Existential Crisis

By TJ Doyle

Go to Laughter page for more stories

traffic sign

Cold air washed over my face as I opened the glass door in front of me. I knew that I wasn’t ready to make this decision yet, but I thought that opening the door and forcing myself one step closer to making my choice might clear up any doubts in my head. It didn’t. My conundrum was as complicated as it had been before, only now there was a sense of urgency fizzing behind my already bubbling anxiety.

On one hand, I knew that I could choose the dependable route, the tried and true path that I had kept to for enough of my life that we’ll just go ahead and say that I had stayed in my groove forever. I knew my groove. It may not be the best way to go about things, but it was comfortable and I knew what was in store for me. Why change lanes when the one you’re in is moving just fine, right? And who says I’d be better off if I did change?

You know you’re not happy living this way. Don’t you deserve to be happy? Don’t you deserve to find some scrap of satisfaction in this life? The dialogue in my head whirled into a frenzy. The part of my mind that taunted me to abandon the status quo was foaming over with intensity, but I had yet to convince myself. Of course I wanted to be happy, but what is happiness? Did I need the intensity of constantly pursuing new experiences? Is true satisfaction in life derived from being in constant pursuit of some new experience? Is a small rush of adrenaline and dopamine worth the potential despair that comes from making poor choices? Is that little biochemical cocktail as good as pleasure gets?


You know you’re not happy? Let me tell you what you know. You know that prudence and perseverance will assuage your doubts, soothe your anxiety, and slake this thirst for fulfillment. It made sense. I knew that I could find solace in the routine. I may not live the best life, but I could live a good one. Who was I, anyway, to think that I deserved some kind of profound joy? The world is awash with suffering, hunger, rampant disease, genocide, and fear. Is living in the absence of those horrors not enough to keep me contented? I live in outright luxury compared to damn near all of humanity, past and present, if you think about it statistically. If I couldn't be happy in the midst of such immense privilege, could I ever be happy?

“Gonna stand in front of that open door forever? It’s all the same as the last time you were here.”

Hearing a voice from outside of my head startled me. Now someone was watching. He knows you can’t choose. He knows you don’t know what you want. I could feel his eyes burning into my back as I stood frozen with indecisiveness. A torrent of effervescent thoughts swarmed my mind, but popped like firecrackers before they fully formed. I was overwhelmed by a sense of immediacy and immensity. Both sides of my mind had ceased any kind of rational commentary and only screamed, Choose! CHOOSE! Make a decision, you miserable bastard! I was shaken. My head felt like it would burst. I didn’t know if I was making the right choice. Maybe you never know if you’re making the right choice.

I closed the door, turned around, and shuffled toward the man who had addressed me. My head hung heavy with doubt.

“’Sa matter? Couldn’t find what you were looking for?”

“I wanted to make sure I made the right choice.”

“The right choice? Hell, one’s as good as the other, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know. I like to think that there’s a right one.”

“Well, maybe there is. After all, that Coke is supposed to come with a smile.”

puppy with coke bottle

About the author

TJ Doyle photograph by Travis Heacock

TJ Doyle is a custom motorcycle, live music, and travel devotee living in Orlando, Florida. His writing focus has been short stories and graphic novel scripts. He has been selected for publication in Tin Lunchbox Review and is developing a non-fiction portfolio.

Go to Laughter page for more stories

Did you like the article? Subscribe here to our New Article Email Alert or RSS feeds.

Sharing is caring! Don't forget to share the love, and keep the conversation going by leaving a comment below: