"If I hadn't spent so much time studying Earthlings," said the Tralfamadorian, "I wouldn't have any idea what was meant by 'free will.' I've visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will."
Billy has just commented to his alien abductor that it sounds as if Tralfamadorians don't believe in free will--the ability to make choices and change the future. The Tralfamadorian explains that free will is indigenous to human beings on Earth. Like the white rhinoceros or the mountain gorilla. And if free will exists only on our planet, then the concept of good and bad exists only on this planet, as well.
The Tralfamadorian take on the universe doesn't make a lot of sense to Billy at this point in Slaughterhouse, and it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, either. Every person is brought up to believe in free will--choosing what path of life to follow. Making hard or easy choices. My brother made a choice many years ago not to take his diabetic medications. Now, he is in a hospital bed, struggling for breath as a result of his choice.
I also believe in the concept of good and bad. No one would argue with me if I say that Adolf Hitler was a bad person. Or Josef Stalin. The Holocaust was evil. Disenfranchising millions of people from healthcare in the United States, not good. Goodness is the result of a person/people making choices that are beneficial to others--family, friends, neighbors, refugees, strangers, Mother Nature. When someone makes a choice that harms others, that is bad. That's what ethics and morality and religion are built upon.
I suppose that I do make neutral choices in a day. Cheerios or Lucky Charms for breakfast. Mountain Dew or Coke Zero. Billy Joel or Bruce Springsteen on the radio. Gardening naked on Naked Gardening Day. These decisions don't really hurt anything or anyone. Okay, maybe me planting tulip bulbs in my backyard naked might be a little traumatizing to some people. You get the idea, though.
The difficult choices in life, however, have consequences. Sometimes personal. Sometimes far-reaching. If I were an addict and did not seek help for my addiction, I would be making a choice that would negatively impact my wife and kids and loved ones. I would lose my job and my family and, eventually, my life. Bad choice leading to bad consequences.
Free will can be a wonderful thing. Free will can be a bitch, too.
Saint Marty is thankful for the free will to take a nap this afternoon.