Friday, October 13, 2006

Living as if my decisions matter

What affect do we have on others? What effect do we have on the quality of society or environmental conditions we live in?

You and I are just one person. What can we do? How can we affect world issues? How can we make peace happen in the world? As one person, what can you or I do?

All sorts of decisions are made for us ahead of time. What kind of food can we buy and is it nutricious? That decision is made by the restaurents and grocery stores. Do the clothes we wear or the furnishings in our house contain toxic chemicals that are slowly poisoning us? That decision is made by the manufacturer and regulated by the government.

It goes on and on. In the U.S.A. we have a dizzying array of choices in the stores, and we have a lot of personal freedom. But there are limits and to a large degree most choices are predetermined by big organizations. They choose the quality of the air, the quality of the water, the kind of food we have available, the kind of cars we have available, the sort of transportation system in our cities, the way electricity is delivered and generated, the makeup of all the products, etc. All that is predetermined by those big organizations.

The "choice" in our stores and in our life seems to me to be an illusion. Any time a decision has predetermined parameters, you control the outcome of the decision. It's just like when one person is asking questions, the choice of questions the questioner asks tends to limit the respondant in their answers. By limiting the range of choice the big organizations tend to control the outcome.

The oil companies for example want to keep us from choosing alternative energy sources besides oil. So in cahoots with the car companies they've gone to great lengths to control the politics of the country and the beliefs of the people so that the only feasible choice people can make is to continue driving oil-burning cars.

Spiritual teachings say we have complete freedom of choice. We can choose anything we want at any time. Well, I suppose our power of choice is ultimately limited by the behavior of the physical universe. I don't know anybody who has chosen the ability to fly, for example.

Excercising freedom of choice offers a liberation, it offers choosing your own destiny rather than living by the destiny others have chosen for you. Where one goes in life is pretty much determined by the choices they make as they go through life. Obviously there are other choices made by other people which also effect where one goes in life. Living in this world is, after all, a cooperative endeavor.

Excercising freedom of choice can mean going against the status quo and perhaps facing ridicule from those around you.

For example take the alternative choice for powering your vehicle than oil. You can choose to ride a bicycle everywhere, you can choose several alternative fuels like biodiesel or natural gas, or you can choose an electric car. All those have their own difficulties and tradeoffs, but those are choices you can make which do not involve burning fossil fuel (oil).

Excercising freedom of choice can affect the choices others make. If someone sees you doing something, like driving an electric car, that might lead them to thinking an electric car is okay after all.

Excercising freedom of choice sends a message to the big organizations. It is your money and every time you spend your money on X versus Y that's like voting in an election. The dollars spent by all the purchasers of X tend to reinforce the manufacturers to make X and other products like it.