What and How does a man become whatever it is that he so becomes relies mainly upon the choices he makes and decisions he takes while in the process, getting evolved, in becoming the man he so becomes. While this might sound plain given that he learns about good and bad, right and wrong, as he matures and takes decisions and makes choices on the basis of the things he goes on to learn from his home, religion, society, education and his overall progress through his journey. However, it is not that plain, it is not that simple. When a man is born he immediately faces two things, which are a part of an unescapable plan of affairs- his life- as he faces ‘circumstance’ and ‘dogma’ from his very birth till his last breath.
It is indeed very difficult to explain how a choice a man makes thinking that he has done so through his own free will is not entirely based on his free will. Let us keep the discussion about free will and the level of the freedom of will all together aside, for one might then contest that a man’s free will is also limited and dependant on the environment he finds himself surrounded with. Consider circumstance for instance, one never had the choice to be in a situation, either good or bad, on his own. This is one of life’s funniest tricks. He finds himself in a situation due to his circumstance and then he gains awareness of the fact that now he shall have to deal with it, like it or not. We do think that we make a choice out of our own free will and that we have complete freedom over our actions, however, our choice may vary from one situation to another and this ascertains for a fact the reason that a man cannot exercise free will independent of his circumstance.
Similarly, a man is bred to grow in this world following other people’s dogma. His family, his traditions, values, culture that he inherits without having time or for that matter the knowledge of questioning anything and he goes on to accept everything as part of the plan for his life. Therefore, a man is sort of mechanised and programmed about almost everything and this programming carries on as he grows old. Then as he grows older he starts to holdfast all that he has learnt as he calls that experience without critically thinking about the correctness of his understanding. One starts to get stubborn as one grows older and it is very hard to find people who are open to learning after they land in their forties. Unfortunately the saddest of all things is the fact that a man can only completely understand most of the things with age and maturity and not in youth. This is coupled by the misery that with ageing comes stubbornness in knowing whereas youth flushes with openness yet it lacks the wisdom that only experience may teach. Quite a chicken and egg situation but this is how it is, or is it not?
It is indeed difficult to allow critical thinking to take room in this process all together whereas that is what should be taught and instilled in the younger generation so that they are able to questions things as they grow and develop their own understanding towards the nature of things. While one cannot ignore the role of guidance and path setting yet one must teach and educate the masses on virtue and an awareness on vice however bombarding the young mind in all that has been established by us through our journey filled with circumstance and dogma must not be allowed to cross over.
A man sometimes takes a choice that, if given the freedom from circumstance and dogma, one might never have taken. What needs to be done here is to promote the essence of critical thinking and analysis and research in order for a man to be able to try his/her best in becoming the man or woman he or she deserves to become. It is however not easy to eradicate the voice of society, living on established norms, from hindering the process of thinking and freely doing what a man must given his situation. Only then can we dream of a time where we might be able to claim to have tried to exercise free will.
When we start to take decisions based on our thinking free from others’ dogma and perhaps our circumstance shall we become free men and women who have critically thinking minds. However, this requires a prerequisite called tolerance towards others views and thought. I believe this is the reason why our Prophet Mohammad SAWW used to teach tolerance and patience as being the virtues the God treats rather dearly.
Yet we go on being attacked by different things of which vanity comes up first, wearing the fabric of ego and destroying the beauty of affairs. We must then have sufficient self-control over ourselves to comprehend that we are a product of chance and circumstance in one way or another and have patience and tolerance towards not only others but also our own situation and try to seek knowledge over time without stubbornly holding on to what others say or believe in and be guided by morality and ethical standards after examining them through our own critical thinking processes.
Only then can one dream of a society that is free from the clutches of its own stranglehold. Only then can a man live in peace and harmony with another and be able to become the man he desires to become rather than becoming a man he had to become because if the latter is true he might paint a life that is not of his liking but that of others where he kills his dreams and desires and wears the cloak of someone else that would never fit on him but he tries to carry on so and ends up unbecoming of a man.