Mediciluxe asks: "Left field question, but I'd like to know your take: does free will exist, and to the degree it does or does not, how does it operate? I apologize for not scaling a mountain before inquiring into the nature of reality, it feels a bit like I'm skipping steps here."
Through the course of our studies we've read many compelling philosophies about the existence and operation of free will. Our own take on the matter might best be summarized by the Dakota conception of the confluence of the four winds, depicting how those forces interact with human passions and divine influences. It seems that there are all sorts of willpowers in probable conflict, with changeable weather on top of it all. No wonder it so often feels that one has no personal control.
The Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of Ethnology explains that the pictured cross shape is carried far back in tradition and myth and "represents to the Dakota the four winds, which issue from the four caverns in which the souls of men existed before their incarnation in the human body. All medicine men, i.e., conjurers and magicians, recollect their previous dreamy life in those places and the instructions then received from the gods, demons, and sages. They recollect and describe their preexistent life, but only dream and speculate as to the future life beyond the grave.
"The top of the cross is the cold all-conquering giant, the North-wind, most powerful of all. It is worn on the body nearest the head, the seat of intelligence and conquering devices.
"The right arm covers the heart; it is the East-wind, coming from the seat of life and love.
"The foot is the melting burning South-wind, indicating, as it is worn, the seat of fiery passion.
"The left arm is the gentle West-wind, blowing from the spirit land, covering the lungs, from which the breath at last goes out, gently, but into unknown night.
"The center of the cross is the earth and man, moved by the conflicting influences of the gods and winds."
(Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1888-89, pp. 724-25.)