Life is comprised of a set of things which cannot be changed and an endless succession of choices for those that can, and who we are today is a result of a combination of the two.
We are born bound to the rules laid out by our individual DNA: basic physical structure, eye and hair color, susceptibility to certain medical conditions, etc. But it is the choices we make with every other aspect of our life which predominate in making us who we are as individuals and set us apart from every other human being. Choices, like sins, can either be of commission or omission; consciously making a choice on something gives us at least the sense of having some sort of control. It seems that too often we opt for choosing by omission; we just let things happen, even in situations in which a conscious choice could definitely effect the outcome. Simply ignoring a problem...not dealing with it head-on by making a choice one way or the other results in the choice being made for us by our inaction, and the outcome may not what we had anticipated or wanted. Choices, once made, are difficult if not impossible to change.
We choose our friends and partners, our career, and our interests. We benefit from wise choices and suffer the consequences of the bad. But when we don't bother to make conscious choices, we are ceding a degree of control over our own lives, and the outcome tends to be more often negative than positive.
The wise learn from their past choices and factor that into future choices. Some do not. I've mentioned before a man I knew who had been married five times. Each of his wives were all but physically identical. He met each one in a bar. Not one of the five marriages lasted longer than two years. The last time I saw him, he introduced me to a woman I'm sure he planned to make wife number six. She looked exactly like the other five, and he met her guess where?
One of the major choices I personally have made is to ignore reality as much as possible. I find reality simply too confusing, too infinitely frustrating. I'm fully aware that ignoring reality is...well, unrealistic, and that by doing so I become increasingly isolated from the world around me. Those things and people I enjoy, I acknowledge. Those I do not, I ignore to the best of my ability. I know they're there; I simply choose to ignore them. It's not easy; the world is a pretty big place and there are a lot of people in it and a lot going on, but by and large it works for me.
The ability to actively choose has moved mankind forward through history. As a society, we are always making choices to improve our lot. And as with individuals, society sometimes makes bad choices.
One choice I do wish would become universal is not to remain silent on those things you sincerely believe to be fundamentally wrong; not to choose to ignore injustice or bigotry or hatred. The choice to speak up to prevent these things may not always be easy or comfortable, but it is why we were given the gift of choice in the first place.
There are an infinite number of times when we are not even aware that we have a choice and unconsciously allow our emotions select one--usually a negative one--by default. I experienced that exact situation not more than five minutes ago. I was trying to upload a program which, because I am firmly convinced cyberspace has it in for me, did not want to be uploaded. As is my wont, I reacted by growing furious at the computer for not doing what I wanted it to do and, more so, at myself for not being able to do something a three-toed sloth could undoubtedly handle with one arm tied behind its back. And then I suddenly realized that I had the choice to look at the situation in the light of what real difference flying into a rage made. It made none of course, and I calmed down.
My life would be much simpler if I can just remember, the next time something similar happens, that I have a choice in my response. I'd venture to guess the same might be true for you as well.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1 )