Friday, November 10, 2006

Choosing what direction you take in life

What is your purpose? Where is your life taking you? How do you decide the life you are going to live?

These are universal questions, ones I've been pondering very much lately. I had an interesting inspiration this morning I'd like to share.

Riding my motorcycle on the way to work I was in a curve I regularly take. Halfway through this curve there is an entrance into a parking lot, and today I was behind pair of cars, one took the turn into that parking lot, and the other did not. Which struck me as exemplifying choice. One went one way, the other went the other way.

Life is a series of choices. Where you end up in life is based on the choices you make. Constantly, choices. Every day you choose to go to work, or whether to call your boss and tell him/her what to do with that stinking job. And the choices are far more continual than that, because every step you walk, every breath you take, every word you say, every moment is a choice. Your life is made of those choices.

Riding the motorcycle exemplifies one aspect of life and making choices. When you're taking a curve on a motorcycle, inertia, centripetal forces, gyroscopic forces, the friction of rubber meeting the road, and more, all go together to place you in a delicate maneuver. On a motorcycle in a curve your choices are pretty limited so you had better look ahead and make your choice before entering the curve.

If we choose to fly, what keeps us anchored to the ground? There is more to life than simply the choices you make. The choices you make occur within a context, and the context acts to shape your choices into the results.

A few years ago I had been having these dreams about jumping off a cliff, and flying. Shortly after I found myself on a trip in Arizona, in a national park, standing at the top of a cliff, and thinking about that dream. If I had taken the dream literally I might have chosen to jump off the cliff expecting to fly. But I suppose if I had chosen that course I wouldn't be here typing this message to you, would I?

The context we live our lives in is this material world. It follows laws which the physicists call Inertia and Gravity which go together to say that if I had chosen to jump off that cliff expecting to fly, Gravity would have grabbed ahold of me causing me to plummet to the bottom of the cliff several hundred feet below.

Another context is our bodies. We inhabit human bodies and the nature of our bodies give us a certain perspective whereas if we inhabited the body of a household cat we might have a different perspective. The perspective and nature of the body we inhabit give our choices room to fly (in some cases, if we inhabit a bird) or they also limit us in some ways (for instance, birds do not have hands or arms).