These days the boffins think that we’re just passengers in this life. They’ve looked at the way our brains organise responses to our environments, and they think that all our actions are predetermined. It is either the environment itself that chooses how and why we make decisions, or our choices are made by our subconscious before we even know that a decision has been made.

It’s a confusing line of argument, because feeling like we make our on choices is fundamental to who we are and how we find comfort in our existence. It says that, surely if life is already predetermined then the roll of the dice is enough to guide me? I’ve learned to be sceptical about all that. Even if fate is merely providing succour by appearing to grant me choice, then the appearance of choice is in itself an instrument helping unfold the future as it decends upon us.

This is because we are each of us the stone in a river of time. Our lives flow towards us, and over us, and we each experience the sensation of being alive, of recording the past as it becomes real.

So let’s say the boffins are correct. It is fated at the genetic level how each moment will fall upon me. If that is the case, then none of my decisions are my own. And knowing the past is therefore all the more important. We are then a backward-looking species, one confined to a knowledge of what has gone, and awaiting what will become.

But I’m not convinced. There is truth in the idea that we are backward-looking. The know-ability of the past does define our actions, but the assumption that we can each make choices to influence our futures, or to alter the course of the flow of time, is fundamental to our self-awareness, and our conceptualisation of the present. Knowing the past is a way to better understand how the future is approaching, because it provides the clear indications where the high-water marks are, and the rise and fall of the events that can end, or alter, our existence.

Our mere existence in time is enough to alter the course of the flow, as I shall deomonstrate. Though we might not have influence over every small choice we are offered, and we might not have all the free will some philosophers might have assumed we do, we are each actors in the great unfolding of the universe’s knowledge. Each of us a small, chaotic actor in a collossal drama.