Monday, February 18, 2008

Freedom!


This is another short story. The fictional character, Earl Flask, narrates the story again. This continues the series from the three previous stories:

A Hole in Time
Holy History
Chasing the Probe

This story explores the questions of whether the future can be altered and what is freedom.




Monday, October 8, 2012, 9:12 AM

My cell phone played the opening strains of Gustav Holst’s The Planets, performed by the Atlanta Symphony. I reached for my cell phone and flipped it open.

“The Atlanta Casual Observer, Earl Flask speaking.” I answer.

“Hi Earl.” The voice got my attention.

It was Dr. Sanjee Puthenparambil, the new CEO of Q-Corp. Just months earlier Sanjee resigned and blew the whistle on a Q-Corp project where she played a key role. The project was the Wormhole Time Displacement (WTD) machine. Sanjee’s pioneering research in manipulating quantum wormholes, the tiny tunnels crossing out of space and time and looping back into it, formed the foundation of a time machine, where a quantum wormhole was inflated into a long tube just wide enough to push a marble sized spherical probe through it. Sanjee had discovered how to establish a time difference between the two ends of the wormhole. Depending on which end the probe entered and then exited the wormhole, the probe would either go back into time or go forward into the future. The first significant use of the WTD was to send a probe back nearly 2000 years ago to the tomb of Jesus. The probe was lost and had become a valuable relic owned by the Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople. The project manager of the WTD prepared to surreptitiously take back the probe from the church’s headquarters. Sanjee discovered the plan, resigned, and setup a sting operation that resulted in an international incident where the project manager was arrested and Q-Corp’s contracts with CERN in Europe were canceled. The CEO of Q-Corp did something remarkable; he took responsibility for the fiasco and resigned, suggesting that Sanjee replace him because of her integrity and courage. The board of directors agreed. In the few months she ran the company, Q-Corp made a remarkable turnaround. Business practices changed, ethics and accountability got high priority, and CERN restored their contracts with Q-Corp.

“Dr. Puthenparambil, it is a pleasure to speak with you.” I said.

“You said my name well. How long have you been practicing?” Sanjee asked.

“Since the day you reprimanded me for not knowing anything about you, including your last name.” I said, a little embarrassed.

“Don’t take that too hard,” Sanjee said, “it all worked out well, and by the way, call me Sanjee.”

“Thanks” I said.

“Earl,” Sanjee continued, “we’re getting the Wormhole Time Displacement machine ready for an experiment, the first since the adventure you were involved in. I’m inviting you to participate in the experiment and report on it. If you’re free, I’d like you to meet with us this afternoon. I think you’ll find it quite interesting.”

I expressed my interest and we arranged to meet at her office at 1:30 that afternoon.

Monday, October 8, 2012, 1:30 PM

I arrived precisely at 1:30 in the afternoon at the Q-Corp lobby. Security had gotten noticeable stronger since my last visit. Everyone entering the building had to display his or her security badge to the armed guards. I was escorted into Sanjee’s top floor corner office.

“Sanjee, it is a pleasure to see you again.” I said coming into the office.

Sanjee smiled and stood up, “Earl, it is good to see you.” We shook hands.

“Earl, I brought you here for a real inside reporting job. This might get you into both a psychology journal and a physics journal.”

“That’s a lot better than the National Enquirer.” I said. My last article on Q-Corp dealt with the details about the probe placed in the tomb of Jesus. My editor thought the story was great, but rather unbelievable. He didn’t want to put the fragile reputation of the Casual Observer to further ridicule, so he sold the store to the National Enquirer, which published it with the story that Hilary Clinton was abducted by space aliens. In a twist of irony, Matt Drudge picked up the two stories in the Drudge Report during a slow news week. It was labled as strange stories of the week.

Sanjee smiled, “Things didn’t turn out as you hoped, did they.” Sanjee paused and I nodded. “The time machine is now under the oversight of a committee made up of people from the Federal government, international, and university communities. Believe it or not, your story in the National Enquirer was required reading for many people all over the world. It caused quite a bit of alarm in many quarters about how this thing could be used.

“The new project director of the Wormhole Time Displacement machine and I have made several proposals of experiments to the oversight committee. One of the experiments needs a human guinea pig.”

A voice from behind broke in, “Yeah, someone expendable.”

I turned to see it was Michele Gordon. My jaw dropped. “I thought you wanted nothing to do with time machine.”

“I didn’t, not after the tomb stunt. But Sanjee told me that she needed a skeptical, cautious project manager for the time machine, and that the board of directors was begging me to come back.

“So Earl, here’s the experiment.” Michelle pulled out a marble sized spherical capsule and rolled it in her fingers. “We are going to send this capsule through a wormhole to a week into the future, to Monday, October 15th. We want you, a week from today, to wear this capsule in a headband to record what you are doing for eight hours, then we will fetch the capsule through the wormhole back to our time. We will view the recording to see what you are doing a week from now. The question we’re exploring is whether the future is fixed or if it is changeable. We will ask you to change what we recorded you doing in the future to do something else instead. For instance, let’s say during that eight-hour period you shop at Kroger for groceries. We’ll ask you to do something else instead, and we’ll make it worth your while by paying you one million dollars to do something else. In fact, we’re going to pick three things for you to do differently during that eight-hour period. For each thing you do differently, you will get one million dollars. So, during an eight-hour period, you could earn three million dollars.”

“You’re kidding, is that it?” I asked incredulously. “That’s an easy three million dollars.”

“It might not be as easy as you think.” Said Sanjee. “The future might be unchangeable.”

“I think there are many possible futures.” Michelle said, “And Sanjee thinks there is only one possible future.”

It took a while for this to sink in. “If there is only one possible future, then it would seem I have no freedom.”

Sanjee replied, “That’s Michelle’s position. I think freedom can exist under the conditions of only one future. Michelle thinks that there can be no freedom when we can only follow one path without any possibility of variation. After the experiment, we want to interview you on what prompted your actions.”

Michelle jumped in, “Especially if you don’t change your actions. We want to understand why you didn’t change your actions.”

“Are you in?” Sanjee asked.

“Yes, I’ll do it. I’ve never had the chance to get three million dollars before. This will be fascinating no matter what happens.”

“Good.” Sanjee said, handing me a booklet. “Now, you are going to have to follow certain rules. You cannot go looking for information where you’ll get financial gain. Michelle and you, as well as I, are going to be audited by the IRS and the Securities and Exchange Commission for inside trading and taking unfair advantage of future information – with the exception of the three million dollars we are offering you. You will be signing disclosure agreements and other documents.”

The Michelle took over. “At 2 pm today, in less than an hour, we are going to open the wormhole to October 15, 2012 at 9 AM, a week from today. We will send this capsule through the wormhole to that time.” Michelle held up the marble-sized silver capsule. “You will wear this capsule during your 8 hours of activities. We will pick up the capsule about 8 hours later, bringing back through the wormhole to our time, which will be sometime around 8 pm our time tonight. Tomorrow we will look at the recording to see what you did in the future.”

Then Sanjee said, “Earl, I want you here, at my office, at 8 am, Monday, October 15. We will pick three things for you to do differently that day. We will give you a headband. The headband will hold two capsules. One is the capsule we get from the wormhole, which we send into the future and get back. The other is a capsule we put on that day. It doesn’t travel into the future or back. We will compare the recording of the second capsule from the recording of the capsule we sent into the future and got back.”

My head was swimming. “Won’t they be identical recordings? On October 15, both those capsules will be recording the same thing.”

“This is where it gets interesting.” Said Michelle. “There are different possibilities on how the universe works. Back in 1957, Hugh Everett proposed that the universe splits into parallel universes during a quantum event. A quantum event is something that happens in the incredible tiny world of quantum physics, which is smaller than atoms. The nature of a quantum event is unpredictable and can only be stated in probabilities of occurring. Everett proposed that when a quantum event occurs, the universe splits into two parallel universes, one universe where the quantum event went one way, the other universe where the quantum event went the other way. Since there is billions upon billions of quantum events each second, so there are billions upon billions of universes splitting from each other.

“When we send a capsule into the future, we are sending it into these split parallel universes, and the capsule we get back to our time may show a future that is different from the one we eventually see a week later. In that case, the recording we retrieve tonight will be different from the future we really see. Understand?”

My brain was hurting. “I think so.”


Monday, October 8, 2012, 2:00 PM

Down in the underground “bunker” where the WTD was located, we watched from a thick green-tinted glass porthole the robotic arm take the capsule and put it into a large cylindrical tank nestled in six large donuts resembling six MRI machines. We saw a brief flash coming from within the cylindrical tank.

“The probe’s been pushed into the future.” Sanjee said. “Now we wait.”

Monday, October 8, 2012, 10:00 PM

I spent the afternoon and early evening performing various errands. We gathered again in the underground bunker. This time another man joined us, wearing a back suit and tie. I couldn’t help but being reminded of the movie Men in Black. He told us his name is James Smith. He was a liaison to the international oversight committee watching the operation of the WTD. The plan tonight was to fetch the probe from the future and place it in a safe. The probe’s recording would be played in the morning in the presence of the full committee, just in case there was something newsworthy about the future that everyone needed to know about, like the end of the world.

Right at 10:15 pm, we saw the flash from the cylindrical tank. The robot arm retrieved the probe and dropped it into metal drawer beneath the porthole and the arm shut the drawer. Michelle opened our end of the drawer and fetched the capsule. We walked into an office on the other side of the hall where there was a wall safe that took two keys. Sanjee had one key and James Smith had the other. They locked the capsule in the safe and we departed for the day.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012, 10:00 AM

We met in a small theater room on the top floor of Q-Corp. A large display hung in the front of the room. A podium stood to the right of the display. Five rows of cushioned seats faced the display and podium.

Sanjee started the meeting. She introduced the full oversight committee consisting of nine people, a psychiatrist, Dr. Rosen, who was observing the experiment, Michelle, the project director, and me, the test subject of the experiment. Sanjee briefly reviewed the project and how they had sent a capsule a week into the future that recorded eight hours of my life and then sent the capsule back to the present. Sanjee explained that Dr. Rosen and Michelle were going to pick the three things they would ask me to do differently in the future and the financial incentive of one million dollars for me to do those things differently. This morning we will rapidly view my eight hours. Then this meeting would end. Dr. Rosen and Michelle, and observers of the oversight committee would meet in the afternoon and the next few days to consider which activities for me to change. On Monday, October 15, when I come to perform my part of the experiment, I would be told which three activities to change during the eight hours that were being observed. Sanjee held up a DVD disk and said this contains a copy of what the capsule recorded in the future. Sanjee then started the playback of the recording from the capsule.

Apparently I cooperated in the future. The first thing the recording showed was Michelle looking at us (she was looking at the capsule, holding it level to her head with an outstretched arm. In the top right corner of the screen a digital clock showed it was 9:11:23 am on October 15, 2012. The clock displayed the time in the granularity of hundredths of a second. The view of Michelle turned to reveal me, wearing a goofy headband with one capsule attached to it and an empty spot for this capsule. Great, I will go around Atlanta and upscale Cobb County with that geeky headband. Oh well, all in the name of science.

I am not a flashy exciting guy. After leaving Q-Corp, I headed to Cumberland Mall and bought five cards in a Hallmark card shop. I closed the transaction at 10:18:32 at the cash register. Fortunately they sped up the playback.

What do you do when you know lots of people are going to watch every action you take? Well, I decided to go to the Atlanta Aquarium, then next door to the World of Coke, and finish it off with a greasy hotdog at the Varsity. Fortunately when I had to relieve myself, they had given me a remote control to block the recording devices. The screen would be blank except for the digital clock that kept the time at the top right corner of the screen. I saw I had one of those blank moments at the World of Coke. I must have drunk a lot of soda.

It took 60 minutes to fast forward through my life of 8 hours that day. The psychiatrist took plenty of notes of my activity. I felt a little uncomfortable; maybe he saw some signs of mental illness in me.

After viewing my life, the morning meeting was over. Others would continue to review my life; my next assignment was to show up at Q-Corp at 8:00 am, Monday October 15, 2012.


Monday, October 15, 2012, 8:00 AM

We met again in the Q-Corp theater room. Michelle moderated the meeting this time. Sanjee, Dr. Rosen, the nine oversight committee members and myself were in the audience.

Michelle started, “Earl, thank you for participating in this experiment today. This is a groundbreaking time. Dr. Rosen and I have spent the last few days going over Earl’s life and we have settled on the three things we would like you attempt to do differently. We cannot force you to do these differently, but we are giving you an incentive of one million dollars for each of these three things you do differently.”

The screen behind Michelle came to life showing the entrance of a Hallmark card shop at Cumberland Mall.

Michelle continued, “The first is we don’t want you to purchase the five cards at the Hallmark store. For one million dollars we think that is an incentive for you to put that off for another day.”

Next the screen showed the entrance to the World of Coke.

“Next,” said Michelle, “we don’t want you to go to the World of Coke. I understand you’ve been there before and it shouldn’t be a hardship for you not to see it today.”

I nodded, then the display showed the food order counter of the Varsity with lots of people in disorganized lines in front of it.

“Finally,” said Michelle, “we don’t want you to order any hotdogs at the Varsity. You can go to the Varsity, if you want, and order something to eat, but not a hotdog.”

Simple enough requests, I thought. Michelle opened the meeting to questions and discussion. There was some idle chat, and then Michelle pulled out the headband I was to wear.

“Earl, this is the headband you are to wear.” Michelle held up a stretchy cloth headband. She pointed to two receptacles spaced near each other. “These are two holders for the capsules that will record your activities. I am putting one capsule in now. I will put in the other capsule shortly. That capsule is the one we put though the wormhole last week and we are retrieving it now, downstairs, as I am speaking. We will return that capsule through the wormhole opening this evening. The recording you’ve watched of Earl is from the capsule we’re getting now downstairs, that we sent last week to today and we’ll send back again. The capsule will record what Earl does today and we’ll see what Earl does differently by viewing the recording of the first capsule and comparing it to the recording we’ve already watched.”

A young man entered the room holding a capsule. He gave the capsule to Michelle.

“Earl,” Michelle said, “Come down to the front.”

I got up and walked to the front and stood next to Michelle. She put the headband on me, adjusted it so the receptacles were in front. Michelle picked up a small control unit, the size and shape of a credit card.

“This is a remote control for the capsules.” Michelle said. “In a second I am going to turn it on. I want you to notice two important buttons. One is a red button labeled stop. Press this button whenever you desire privacy, such as going to the restroom. The other green button is labeled REC. Press this button when your private moments are over to continue recording.”

Michelle pressed the green button. She held up the capsule from the past, looked at it, turned the capsule to record me, then put the capsule in the other receptacle in my headband.

“You are ready to go.” Said Micelle. “Have fun and return at 6 pm today. We will interview you about your day then.”

With that, I left the room. As I walked, going to my car in the parking garage, I thought about the three requests to change my activity from what the recording showed me doing: buying cards at Hallmark, going to World of Coke, and getting a hotdog at the Varsity. A week ago when I watched the video of activities I would do today, I didn’t have a clue why I’d buy five cards. I didn’t have a clue until yesterday. Yesterday afternoon I visited Jim McGregger. He was the original project director of the WTD project, as well as the chief engineer at Q-Corp. Because Jim got caught doing some illegal activity in running the project, Jim ended up in prison. Jim worked out a plea deal where he confessed to a lesser crime where he would spend six months in a minimum-security facility in Atlanta. Yesterday was the second month of his imprisonment and Jim was feeling despondent. His career was over. He didn’t know what he could do to rebuild his life. I spent a couple of hours with him trying to encourage him. I got home yesterday evening feeling I accomplished nothing. I only seemed to make things worse. It reminded me of how things turned out in my own life, going badly in many ways. Then, I heard the doorbell. It was a friend from church, who dropped by with a card. This friend told me how I touched his life a year earlier. He gave me a card in which he wrote how a series of conversations I had with him, chatting over coffee, made the difference in his life, saving his marriage and family. I was blown away. After my friend left, I read his card again and I broke into tears. I couldn’t believe what he wrote about me. This friend had encouraged me with a visit and a card. I knew several others who encouraged me who I never thanked. I decided I wanted to thanks and encourage five people with cards. I wanted them to know how they positively impacted my life, starting with my friend who gave me a jolt of encouragement last night. I wanted to write a card to Jim who got me into these interesting circumstances with the time machine. I immediately thought of two others, and I knew there must be at least one more.

These friends, who have been such a rich blessing in my life, were worth more than a million dollars to me. As I drove towards Cumberland Mall, it started raining. I knew I could have scheduled this activity for another day, but its meaning would not be the same. These were my million dollar friends. Their friendships were priceless to me. Besides, there were two other opportunities to get a million dollars today. I would be comfortable with two million dollars. As I completed the transaction at the Hallmark store, with people staring at my funny headband, I was enjoying this. I was delighted with my choice of turning down a million dollars here.

Next, I drove to the Georgia Aquarium. I parked on the top deck of the parking structure. The rain had stopped; the sun was out, the air clean. All the years I lived in metro Atlanta I had never seen the aquarium. I was glad that Michelle and Dr. Rosen did not exclude the aquarium. I enjoyed my time there. By 1 pm, I had enough. I was getting tired and I looked forward to skipping the World of Coke. I got into my car on the top deck and started to back out, when something caught my eye – or rather someone caught my eye. Three people were walking past my car. They looked familiar, but I couldn’t place them. Then it hit me. These were friends I knew in high school that I had not seen since my first year of college, two women and a man. One of the women, named Ruth, I had dated in my last year of high school and first year of college. Then we broke up. My heart raced. I had thought about this woman a lot. I sometimes would wonder what life would have been like if I had gotten back with her.

Oh blast! Here I was wearing this goofy geeky headband where my life was being recorded. A whole rush of emotions and thoughts came to me. I was shy, which was one of the reasons I never initiated talking with her again. I wanted to desperately jump out and say hi, but I feared rejection. But most of all, I didn’t want Dr. Rosen and the oversight committee to watch me attempt to talk with an old flame. They’d think of it as a childhood crush. Also, I didn’t want anyone to see my humiliation of being rejected.

I moved the car back into the parking slot and turned off the engine. I grabbed one of the blank cards next to me. Two were already written, but the action was not recorded. I wrote those cards in the restroom in the aquarium with the capsule recording off. I found how to be sneaky with these gadgets I wore. I caught my breath. I opened my door and got out. The threesome was down the deck near the elevator. They hadn’t seen me. The elevator door opened, they stepped in, the doors closed. I casually sauntered over to the elevator and looked over the wall down to the courtyard below. After about a minute, I saw them emerge from the parking structure below walking over towards the World of Coke. I moved my eyes only, keeping my head straight because I didn’t want anyone watching the recording to really see who I was looking at. I thought for a few minutes, about Ruth, how we broke up, and how on a rebound I dated and married another young lady instead, who died a couple years later from pancreatic cancer. How I wanted to meet Ruth again, but I didn’t want Dr Rosen and others to watch this private moment. I finally formulated a plan. It was iffy, but it might work.

I took the elevator down to the courtyard. Ruth and her friends were in the World of Coke line. I planned on staying far away and out of sight until they entered, then I’d get in line and enter at the next opportunity. World of Coke was not busy. I should be able to get in with the next group of people. Once inside, I would look for them in the main lobby, keeping my head still and only moving my eyes. I was going to give up another million dollars, but this was a lifetime opportunity, well worth the cost.

I kept my distance, and entered the World of Coke according to plan. It worked. I noticed the three friends taking the main stairs up to the next level. I hung around on the bottom lobby until they were up, carefully watching them out of the corner of my eye. The three surveyed the lobby below them and then moved on. I quickly walked up the stairs, caught sight of them again, and looked at the exhibits keeping well behind them. When they entered the theater, I waited at a location across from the theater exit to see when they came out, but far enough away to be unnoticed.

Finally they entered the last feature of the Coke tour, the tasting room, where all the flavors Coca Cola makes are dispensed from soda fountains. I watched the three of them tasting all the different sodas. Finally, I saw Ruth walk to a restroom. I quickly walked to the men’s restroom nearby, turning off the capsule recording. I frantically opened the blank card I was carrying and wrote:

Ruth,

This is Earl Flask. I am conducting an experiment right now so I can’t talk, but I want to talk with you after today. My phone number is: 404-xxx-xxxx, and my email is earl.flask@gmail.com. Please call or email me.

Earl

I walked out of the rest room and waited. My heart was pounding, my palms sweating. I felt I could vomit out of nervousness. Finally Ruth walked out of the restroom. I took a quick look at her left hand. No rings. I approached her.

“Hi Ruth,” my voice cracked. “I’m Earl Flask. Remember me?”

Ruth stopped, turned her head, and stared for a couple of seconds. She looked at my goofy headgear and must have thought I had flipped out. She looked a little apprehensive.

“Hi Earl. Yes, I remember you.” She said hesitatingly, looking at my headband.

“I’m involved in an experiment, it’s a long story, that’s why I’m wearing this goofy headband. The experiment concludes tonight when I can shed this headgear. I’d like to meet with you tomorrow, or whenever, at your convenience. Can I call you?”

Ruth paused for what seemed like an eternity. Then she smiled and said, “Okay.”

I gave her the card I written. “My cell phone and email address is here. Can I get your phone number, or do you want to call me?”

Ruth gave me her cell phone number and said she would be free anytime after 10 am tomorrow. I told her I would call her at 10 and that I had to leave now. After saying bye, I turned on the capsule recording and walked out through the gift shop as if I was floating on air. This was worth more than a million bucks to me.

It was 4:00. I had a little time to kill before I had to get back. Thoughts about Ruth danced through my head. Without thinking I drove to the Varsity on the other side of the freeway. I entered, my head still swimming over my encounter with Ruth. I walked up to the counter and ordered a hotdog. I got it, sat down, smiling, being so happy. I bit into the hotdog and realized that hotdog cost me one million dollars. I started laughing. People around me looked at me, one family moved away. I was deliriously happy over my one million dollar hotdog. I thought it was hilarious. Dr. Rosen wasn’t going to tell me what to do. I was free to do what I wanted to do. I thought of Mel Gibson in Brave Heart yelling “Freedom!” That was the best tasting hotdog I ever had.


Monday, October 15, 2012, 5:48 PM

I returned to Q-Corp and was escorted up to the small theater. Everyone was there. Michelle stopped the recording at 6:00 pm sharp, took the capsule that was sent to us this morning from last week and had it delivered downstairs. It was sent back via the wormhole.

In the theater, Sanjee held up a DVD. “This is the recording everyone saw a week ago of Earl’s activities. A week ago it was one week in the future. We’re now going to going to play what Earl did today. During the playback, I want you to wear these glasses.”

Sanjee passed out plastic framed glasses. For those who wear glasses, Sanjee passed out clip-on glasses.

“The playback will look weird if you don’t wear these glasses.” Sanjee said.

The video started. Sanjee had advanced the video to where it showed me walking out of the theater at 9 am this morning. It was a 3-dimensional video.

“As you can see, you are seeing a three dimensional view of everything.” Sanjee said. “Your right eye is seeing what we got a week ago, your left eye is seeing what we recorded today.”

We were all quiet, and then suddenly murmuring broke out. Sanjee said what I was beginning to realize.

“The recordings are identical, except for the position they recorded from. The capsule from today and the capsule from last week are the same distance as our two eyes. So far, the events occur exactly the same way because you keep seeing the stereo view. If there is any variation in what the capsules record, your eyes will see it immediately.”

In the video I walked past other people, they were in the identical positions. As I drove to Cumberland Mall, I could see the raindrops on the windshield. Sanjee froze the video.

“Notice the raindrops. Identical timing and location.” Sanjee said. “This is remarkable, because any slight variation in a week’s time in anyplace on the earth would result in different weather. But notice that it’s raining, starting at the identical time. Notice the identical position and timing of raindrops. This indicates identical weather for the last seven days.”

Sanjee continued the playback. I entered the Hallmark store. We all saw identical action. Sanjee froze the recording.

“Earl, you just lost one million dollars. Why did you do it?” Sanjee asked.

I gave my thoughts as I remembered them.

“Did you feel coerced? Do you feel you were forced to do this?” Dr. Rosen asked.

“Not in the slightest.” I replied. I got up and took out two cards. “Sanjee, and Michelle, I wrote two of these cards for you that I bought this morning.” I walked over to Sanjee and handed her a card, and then to Michelle and handed her a card. “You are a couple of my million dollar friends. I want you to know how much I value your friendships these past months. What you have done has turned my life around in many ways.”

Both Sanjee and Michelle were speechless. Michelle seemed to be blinking back some tears. I sat back down. Sanjee continued the video. It showed the rest of my activities. Sanjee fast forwarded the playback and slowed it down at various times.

It took two hours this time to playback the video in fast mode, slowing it for closer examination. All of the activity was identical. Everyone, all the people around me, all were there doing exactly the same thing they were recorded doing a week previously. The future and redoing the future were lock step identical.

Everyone in the room seemed to be struggling with a rigid, unchanging future, as unchanging as the past. As Dr. Rosen put it, “How can there be freedom in a predetermined, impossible to change, future?”

But I didn’t see the problem. I guess they had to walk in my shoes to see it. I felt really free today, freer than I had in a long time. Yes, I did exactly what the video of last week showed I would do. But I enjoyed this day immensely. I broke out of my selfishness to tell people how much they mean to me. I rediscovered an old friend and broke through my shyness, fear of failure, my goofy looks, and phobias to restart a friendship that I wished had never ended years ago. I enjoyed a million dollar hotdog and laughed so hard it further lifted my spirits. That’s how I knew I was free.



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