The Power of Choice

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Good evening,

While I would desperately like to be sleeping right now, my mind is racing. I hope hoping the clearing of my mind through my fingertips will result in my getting to sleep, but I guess it was actually creating a list of the myriad of things I need to accomplish in the 28 days before fall semester. How in the world did this happen? It seems way too little time has passed since I was at an Art Garfunkel concert and the last academic year was only a week or two past. Melissa drove her car into the yard and we unloaded things into her room for the summer. Now in a couple weeks she returns home and we will load the car for a return trip.

The weekend was an interesting lesson about choices. About four months ago I made some significant changes in my life. I changed what I eat and what I drink and how much of those foods or beverages I will consume. I also began to teach myself Spanish. In the terms of diet, vitamins and such, the result has been substantial weight loss (over 30 pounds). I was not obese or even overly “engordo“. The weight loss has created a number of positive changes. On the other hand, what amounted to simple choices and, in this case, poor choices had profound consequences today. The consumption of two beverages (both primarily coffee) resulted in my being pretty violently ill. For someone who has lived on coffee for the last 19 years such a change is life-altering. I must admit I got both the infamous look and a stern admonishment for that poor behavior, for which I was not particularly receptive. Furthermore, I have to admit she (and her brother) was (were) right and I was wrong. It also elicited a promise of “no more coffee.” This will be difficult, but a promise is a promise. More importantly, it is about my survival. I am not being melodramatic here, just honest .

However, it brings me to the idea of choice? What are choices? Merely options? Merely a fork in the road? Merely something to ponder? What does it mean to make a choice? What sort of power do we actually have over our choices? Certainly we could go down the path of free will and all of that, but that is not really about what I am concerned in this post. Perhaps what I am trying to determine is the particular process we might use when making our choices. I do think personality and circumstances have some effect on our decisions (e.g. choices). I think our experiences, or more specifically, past experiences, also affect what we might decide. But ultimately, our choices are exactly that “ours”. We do what we do. No one hops into our head and decides or directs our choices. It might be nice if that were the case because then we could blame someone. Lord knows, we need no help in blaming, we are more than ready to blame others. We have created a society of blamers, from one individual to another to the political climate in this country to the entire “el mundo de loco“. Read the headlines of any news source today and reflect honestly on all the finger-pointing. It is outrageous. And then we wonder why so many things are so screwed up? As one of my childhood friends always said, “I am the rocket scientist you don’t need.” To which I can only reply, NO SHIT? I do not curse in my blog as a general rule, but I cannot come up with a more emphatic way to write it at the moment.

Over the weekend, I was provided the profound opportunity to experience a family gathering. I learned so much by observing. I learned again about choices and consequences. I abhor stereo-types. I have spoken to students regularly about the problems that occur when we employ these stereotypes. First of all, let me state simply; “all stereotypes are negative”; even when, on the surface,they might seem to be employed in a positive manner. They are negative because they limit or they marginalize. On the other hand, stereotypes exist because there is a modicum of truth in them somewhere. However, it is precisely because the image is based on only a kernel and often not much more that we need to realize the problem with using them.

That being said, it is much more telling when the person using the stereotype to describe a group or situation is part of that group or situation. Much like a black person employing a particular term. It is viewed very differently. I think of some of the things Bill Cosby has lamented the past few years. He had some credibility not merely because he is Bill Cosby, but rather he spoke as an insider. I would also note his income and stature could also work against him. Again, we have a choice on how we might listen to him. The point is that we always have a choice. Even when things are decided for us, we have a choice in how we will respond. I think people are too ready to abdicate their choices. Is it because they are not willing to do some critical thinking or thorough analysis? It is simply because we feel too busy or harried? Being too busy is a cop-out; if we are going to be honest about that option. We have the time to do whatever we choose to do . . . choices again. It is really about what we value.

What I have come to realize in a most profound or vast way is that we need to take control of our choices versus merely be subjected to them. I must note that while I have always known this, I am not sure I have lived it as well as I might. However, in observing a couple of specific individuals, I must say I have had a strong visual lesson in what it means to do so. I will be forever grateful for that learning opportunity. If we will slow down, ponder, question and consider our options or our responses maybe the outcomes will be more along the lines of what we might expect. Maybe our lives might be more fulfilled. Maybe we might finally understand ourselves . Maybe our world, whether it is that space we are immediately affected by or the larger and more indirectly affected, will seem less ridiculous. Maybe we will be fundamentally happier. Just my thoughts for the moment. Now it is time to sleep and begin to tackle the list in the morning.

Thanks for reading.

Michael

One thought on “The Power of Choice

  1. Mike trying to kick the coffee habit is tough but here is something else to try and very healthy….Alfalfa Tea. My grandma drank it all the time and she lived to be 94, I think she would have lived longer but Alzheimer’s took her life. So give it a shot dude cause you have plenty of life left in you. Take Care hope to see you again sometime, maybe we’ll have to try a small get together with Dianne also.
    Chuck

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