Yesterday, while seated, I began to reach down for my backpack when a fly landed on my knee. My reach was instantly interrupted as my hand froze beside me just slightly higher than my thigh. All my intention became focussed on swatting that fly, and my hand began to move ever so slowly and evenly towards the fly on my knee, maintaining a perfectly consistent distance above my thigh of about three inches.
As my hand slowly glided forward I realized that my breathing had slowed to a near stop and I had the vivid impression of a sensation in my thigh that mirrored the position of my hand above it. As my hand neared, the fly showed no awareness of its impending doom and had not yet bent its knees to get into a jump-ready position - and then SLAP! My hand suddenly made the final lurch so quickly that it almost shocked me, and I realized that I hadn't actually given the order to attack. Yes, this was the plan on my mind as my hand was creeping forward towards the fly, but I hadn't made the final movement consciously; it just sort of happened.
This reminded me of some articles I've read about some neurology experiments in which it was shown that our consciousness is not a direct agency of movement. Obviously our consciousness can direct us - for it's not as though one decides to scratch one's wrist but instead punches oneself in the face. On the other hand, our consciousness isn't typically aware that one hand has begun moving towards the other until after it has happened.
This brought me to think of a cat poised to pounce on a human hand scratching the carpet before the cat's nose. The cat observes the action and an emotion is triggered - suddenly the cat finds itself scrunched up, poised to pounce, but seemingly paralyzed to do so. How long will it wait? Maybe the cat doesn't even know - maybe it just happens, triggered by highly evolved wiring in the subconscious of cats.
How often do we only become aware of our actions after they have been initiated without a conscious thought? I've often joked, when asking a server to take away my plate, that I am not hungry but my hand just keep crawling over to the plate and trying to sneak a few more fries into my face. What then of thoughts? Is it possible that some thoughts just keep passing through my mind even though I do not care to consider them at this time?
It has long been my contention that I am not 'the decision-maker' in my life but, rather, I am my decisions themselves. Those who subscribe to the religion of Alcoholics Anonymous would likely agree strongly with this idea. On the other hand, I often do consciously weigh my options and select a course that can be a struggle to maintain - such as trying to eat a healthier diet.
We obviously have some conscious control over some aspects of our lives - but I sometimes think that we have delusions of much greater control than really exists.
P.S. - I completely missed the fly.