Many readers have asked me about the notion in the book that has to do with nature’s grand “plan” and the part that we play in determining how that plan unfolds in our own lives. There are several scenes in the book where Tyoga seems to accept the judgment of nature’s way, placing his fate in his closely held belief that all events unfold in accordance with the grand plan. That plan decrees that all things happen for a purpose and to question outcomes is an exercise in futility.
Tyoga is introduced to this notion by his father, Thomas, just after his “awakening” on Carter’s Rock. His father says to him, “All things happen only as they must.” The meaning of his father’s words becomes apparent after his encounter with the Runion wolves on the escarpment. He defeats the alpha male, chooses to spare the wolf’s life, and finds himself alone in the woods with his severely injured Cherokee brother, Tes Qua Ta Wa. The choices that he must make in the moments after the battle, hold the life of his friend in the balance. And here is where the discussion really begins. If Tyoga is indeed making “choices,” to what degree is that choice influenced by situation and circumstance, and, if “free will” is part of the equation at all, to what extent is the outcome determined by the exercise of that uniquely human trait?
Volumes have been written throughout the ages and the topic has been examined by some of the greatest minds the world has ever known. So here is my answer, “I don’t know.” But here is what I think: When the layers upon layers of excuse, explanation, mitigation, fabrication, and apology are stripped away from any given event – we are left with absolutes. Absolutes cannot be measured by a subjective metric such as value and worth. Both are human constructs that have no relevance to the outcome. The absolutes are, for example, life or death, left or right, up or down. The test of whether a notion is an absolute is if it passes the either/or check. One cannot proceed “sort of” left or “kind of” right. In the final analysis, you have gone either left or right. The only other option is straight ahead. One cannot move “a little bit” up, or a “tiny scootch” down. In the final analysis, you have either moved up, or down, or not at all. You get the point.
Examples of how events unfold “exactly as they must for no other outcome could possibly be,” occur to all of us every single day of our lives. A common example is when you arrive at an intersection at exactly the same instant as another car. Every single second of your life – up to that very moment – conspired to make that co-incidence arrival occur in exactly that way. If every single aspect and moment of your life is taken into consideration and accounted for – no other outcome could have arisen other than meeting that car at exactly that time and in that exact space. And there truly is no end to the chain of events that one could consider when examining the co-incident arrival. Considering only the immediate chain of events, i.e. if you had gotten out of bed one second earlier that morning . . . if you had taken three seconds longer in the shower . . . if you had scraped your windshield a little less or a little more…. you would not have arrived at the intersection at the same time as the other car. But how about going even farther back in time? If you hadn’t purchased your current home . . . if you had taken five extra minutes picking out a pair of shoes in 1998 . . . if your visit to the dentist in the spring of 2001 had taken ten seconds longer . . . and on and on and on – you would not have arrived at the intersection at the same moment as the other car.
Analyzing the exercise of free will takes a parallel track. We all acknowledge that we have indeed been endowed with the ability to exercise free will. But the influence that it has on the majority of occasions in our life is – I think – negligible at best – especially if one subscribes to the positions espoused above. If the purchase of shoes in 1998 influenced the arrival time at the intersection in 2013, then what portion of the co-incidental arrival was impacted by the choice of shoes? Most would agree that the choice of shoes was an exercise of free will. Many would agree that the time that it took you to make the choice was not. Time is an absolute. It took the amount of time it took to choose the pair of shoes– and no variable of that time interval can possibly be. So if the impact of free will could be measured at all, I contend that the degree to which it influences events – especially when a free will choice is removed from occurrence by time – is infinitesimally small.
So while it is clear to me that Tyoga made the free will choice to return to the escarpment to save Tes Qua – the battle with the wolf pack’s Alpha male, Wahaya-Wacon, seems to me to be less of a choice than an intersection of time and place. He chose to return to help his friend, but he did not choose to battle a pack of wolves. That event was based upon an absolute – life or death.
Other choices that he makes in the Legend of Tyoga Weathersby are less clear. Why he chose to set Sunlei free to face the perils of the frontier alone, with little more than the admonition to “Run!” still makes me scratch my head. There were infinite choices that he could have made. Similarly, I understand why he butchered the Shawnee braves sent by Yellow Robe to capture him and Sunlei, but he surely could have chosen other ways to make the point.
But these are aspects of the book that I purposefully did not reconcile for the reader. It is my hope that readers will question these things and ask how the exercise of free will impacts their own lives, and to what extent are we little more than feathers blowing in the wind.
There is a great deal to discuss about the Legend of Tyoga Weathersby.
But you knew that it was more than a story about a wolf . . . .didn’t you?