Living the choices

Tuesday August 16, 2016

3:05 a.m. Shall we dance, then? If you know what you have in mind, by all means, let’s get to it.

Remember, think of our explanation of life without boundaries. By concentrating on the continuity of things rather than on the differences, a corrective picture will emerge. The things you have been told and the things you have lived aren’t wrong, but they’re all the better for some correction.

Take free will, for instance. Will power, the exertion of will, implies something to exert it against; it implies choice among possibilities. Free will in a vacuum would be a meaningless abstraction, would it not?

But language tempts you to see it as if will is exerted against externals (as if there could be externals, but you know what I mean). It would be closer to say, it uses externals as opportunities.

Shaw’s “moral gymnasium” again.

You might profitably look at it that way for a moment. In every circumstance, you have the choice of how you will react to it. That choice of reaction is your free will, not any choice of reality or choice of consequences. You see? The important part is not where it leads you but what you choose. It isn’t a matter of steering your external life, so much as of maintaining your internal course.

I can’t decide, writing this, if this is more than truisms and generalities.

And since when has it been profitable to decide in mid-stream? First perceive, then discern.

Yes, I’ve heard that said somewhere.

Have you ever wondered if life has a goal, an optimum solution, a model result?

Only about a million times – and what are you meaning by “life” here – one physical life of a soul? Life in its larger sense of 3D life, non-3D life, 3D life again? Life as a general sharing?

Any of these, for they are each but special cases of the thing. What is life, what is life for?

I’ve heard many answers to that question, beginning with my childhood Catechism, but all the answers I am aware of are self-referential. If you subscribe to a given belief-system, the answers are there – but shouldn’t the answers follow from something other than belief?

Wouldn’t any believer say their beliefs stem from experience, or at least (as you would say) from resonance?

Well, I don’t know, but something persuades them they know, and I don’t imagine that everybody who thinks they know is fooling themselves, or is grasping for certainties. But I myself haven’t made any progress since the Catechism’s answer and I still don’t know what it means. “To know, love and serve God in this world and be happy with him in the next.” We all memorized it and recited it back – but I doubt if any of us took it to heart as a way of life, because it is too vague; too smooth. It doesn’t offer any handles to grasp it with. And at the other end of my life, I haven’t found any more convincing description.

And so you live your life – how?

Speaking only for myself, I let myself be led by events, and in some ways that is a very unsatisfactory way to proceed.

So now, consider. If you live your life waiting – for that is what you just said – what are you doing while you wait?

Just living. I don’t know what you want, here.

If you aren’t following a plan you’ve made, and you don’t see a clear goal, and you don’t subscribe to a given view of life, or a given set of rules – what are you doing as you wait? Aren’t you choosing, moment by moment, as you wait? This happens, that happens,. You pick up this book or that book. You watch or re-watch this or that old or new movie. This or that friend calls you, or calls on you, or emails you. This or that social obligation occurs; this or that requirement of life. You find yourself thinking about this or that or the other. Is all this waste motion while waiting for an “important” choice point – or are you choosing every minute,  just by living?

The latter, I suppose.

In your debates about free will, do you customarily think you are talking about trivial choices such as which record to listen to, or which restaurant to eat at, or which way to walk?

Usually not. I’d put that under Gurdjieff’s “law of accident.”

Well, here’s a question for you, a two-part question. What distinguishes an important choice from an unimportant choice? And, how would you know the difference, looking forward? (It may be obvious, or anyway may seem obvious, looking back.)

I don’t know that we can tell one from the other, going forward. Beginning this journal, 50 years ago, turns out to have been a tremendously important thing for me, but how could I have known that? It’s true, I was responding to a very strong and persistent urging.

But, say that is so. Say it is important. What makes it important?

Consequences. A lot of consequences flowed from that decision on Sept. 6, 1966.

Not consequences. At least, not in the way you think of them. Keeping a journal didn’t get you a job, or turn into a finished product, or really, it didn’t do much beyond providing you with companionship over the years – much as did reading – for a long, long time, until in late 2005 you turned it to a new use by recording your talks with Joseph. Can you say that a decision in 1966 was important because it was available to be adapted 40 years later to another purpose?

I get it. The consequences were internal and didn’t need to be expressed externally one way or the other.

That’s still too definite, too black-and-white. But it’s in the right direction. That one choice wasn’t exactly an eeny-meeny-miney-moe. You felt a pull to buy a journal book, after waiting for someone to buy it for you. (Why would you think someone would think to buy it for you? Do you know?) You can listen to a pull, or not. You can resist, or not. You can make a rule for yourself to listen when a strong pull manifests, or not. That, and not the starting or not starting a journal, is the choice.

“That,” meaning – deciding how to react to an urge?

That is one way to look at it. If you decide to be receptive in general, or to impose your will upon life in general, or to decide ad hoc moment by moment – are these not going to lead you to very different experiences? But it isn’t the experiences (results), but the living the choice (shaping your character, you might say) that matters. After you die, do you think you will care particularly which days you made journal entries and which you didn’t? Or, will you care what your handwriting looked like, or whether you indexed your entries? Aren’t you much more likely to care about what you did with your opportunities?

“What you did with your opportunities” will not have much to do with external result, and will have much to do with how it left you.

As in, whether we do or don’t exert willpower during our lives determines to that degree how much “willpower” is a part of our general being.

Yes, and that is the tangible and interesting and useful result, not the incidents you exerted or did not exert that willpower on.

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