Jewish Journal

Adjustment Bureau or Autonomy? Believing in Soul-Mates and Free Will

by Tamara Shayne Kagel

March 4, 2011 | 10:16 am

I saw the Adjustment Bureau last week. It was a little hokey for my taste. I love a good government conspiracy thriller. But it turns out, the Adjustment Bureau is a group of “angels” doing God’s bidding and the story revolves around whether or not free will in the shape of love is strong enough to overcome fate. It had potential but it was hard not to laugh at some of the contrivances like – God and the Bureau can’t see you too well through water so you can act covertly when it rains or on a ferry and hats have magical angel powers.

Nonetheless, the romance turns out to be not hokey at all and is surprisingly the most enjoyable part of the film by far. Now some of this of course has to do with the strengths of the film – answering Nietzsche’s seminal questions on fate is much harder than writing convincing love story dialogue. But as I’ve been reading the surprisingly positive reviews of the film, I found myself wondering if I’m just always a little more willing to suspend my disbelief when it comes to soul-mates. When it comes to believing in fate, I end up more on the side of Deists who think that even if there is a God, God has sort of left man to deal with the world themselves and free will is where it’s at. And so the whole plotline about God’s plan and humans going off of it, makes me roll my eyes a bit. But the part about how these two people are meant for each other because they were destined to be together and they feel something so special for each other because fate has determined they are meant for each other – I’m just eating up every word.

Why is that we’re so willing to put our rational intellectual normal selves aside when it comes to love? Why do I want to believe so badly that the person you end up with in the end is your soul-mate as opposed to someone who you logically concluded was the right choice for you based on reasoned decisions?

If the latter is true, is that really so bad? If you make a reasoned decision about how to marry and end up with a happy loving marriage, why is that somehow still lesser than the person who ends up marrying someone because the heavens sent down a match that was predetermined for you. It actually seems backwards, because you’d think we’d be giving more credit to the person who actually made the decisions him/herself as opposed to the person who got lucky enough to just happen upon kismet.

I’m smart enough to recognize all this and yet powerless to do anything about it. I know there’s hypocrisy in my thinking but I still want to believe that someone out there is destined for me. I don’t want to think that marriage is a logical conclusion to a rational question. Maybe I have such a hard time with that, because love never feels rational. Everything about it in fact, feels completely irrational and the ultimate seal of this emotionally reckless union, marriage, seems like it should be the most irrational act of all.

I like to think that I’m just a hopeless romantic, but maybe I’m just hopeless. When I get down to brass tacks and force myself to be completely realistic, I realize that regardless of what happens, I’ll probably convince myself that I will have ended up with my soul-mate because of how much I want to believe in it. There’s just nothing out there strong enough to convince me to give up hope. In fact, I’m probably more likely to start believing that water shields us from “angels” than truly believe deep down that I don’t have a soul mate. But really guys - I mean God can’t see you on the Staten Island Ferry?! Even us believers have our limits…

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Tamara Shayne Kagel is a twenty-something fixture on the Los Angeles scene currently living in Santa Monica.  Currently, Tamara is a successful freelance writer (just ask her...

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