"Unsettling, isn't it?"

When I was a younger man, I experienced a great revelation. This hardly qualifies as a headline-grabber because great revelations seem the sole property of youth. Older folks continue to experience their share of revelations, but they only very rarely strike them (or anyone else) as particularly great. The notion that age brings greater wisdom beggars belief, as anyone paying attention as their grandparents, then their parents, entered old age. At some point, accumulated wisdom seems to pass backwards to the following generation, often without their permission or immediate recognition. Catching on to this transfer might be the final great revelation most experience, though this ordinarily appears as a genuine "Oh, Shit!" moment.

My great revelation whispered that it's all about choice.
I fancied my then self as a sum total of my prior choices, and took some solace in the notion that I might therefore, by clever choosing, become whomever I might choose to become. As Gandhi once proclaimed about the elephant supporting his Hindu world, my world suddenly became choices all the way down. My great revelation doesn't seem nearly as great now, after a few decades of attempted choosiness, as it felt then, for then, choice seemed to supersede my conviction that there probably were rules, principles, or secrets which might reasonably inform achieving The Good Life. I just needed to find then follow them. My prior life had been an extended, sporadically satisfying, search. The Seven Habits turned out to be better labeled The Seven Obsessions, and the whole self-helpless industry seemed wrapped in charlatans' cloaks. Science seemed to support my Great Revelation, suggesting that real change most often occurs by iterating insignificant-seeming increments. I could choose, then choose again. While this process might now seem indistinguishable from wandering around poking sticks in the dark, the realization that a) my stick would probably never be replaced with some better-engineered pointer, and, b) that nobody would likely ever be turning on a light for me seemed huge. These sub-revelations provided needed reassurance that I was not simply lost. Lost, sure, but not so simply.

The choosy life's principal challenge comes from the apparent necessity of making well-informed choices, or at least not completely brain-dead ones, but nobody seemed then or seems now capable of determining beforehand what might constitute a well-informed choice. Then, nearer my point of revelation, I could rather blithely prescribe making a well-informed choice as the universal resolving agent. I might not possess the ultimate answer, but I fancied that I understood where that answer might be found. Dissatisfied? Make better-informed choices. I was so damned confident then that I could have written a best seller touting that advice without discovering its undefinable underbelly. I might have been recognized as one of the truly great revealers of our time, perhaps for all time, at least in my own mind.

I remain a choosy customer, even though I have stumbled upon some practical limits to my great revelation. The practicality seems more relative now, not nearly so absolute, but a belief need not be a completely reliable producer to prove superior to its known alternatives. I notice that I am not holding my breath so much hoping for divine intervention, but have more thoroughly accepted my own accountability for the sometimes lame-brained choices I make. I accept that while I cannot always determine what constitutes well-informed, this condition fails to completely undermine my fundamental conviction that well-informed choice works. It works like any stumbled-upon synchronicity works, as if it appeared expressly for me at the precise moment I needed it, a form of manifest magic. This sort of magic might out-perform the wishful thinking aspiration for a better-engineered stick or the firm belief that somebody's about to turn on the light. I get to hold sole responsibility for how things turn out, bad luck sometimes excepted, and I have no superior being to curse about my fate.

Choosing choosiness amounts to choosing responsibility. If not me, who else? I get to play the cards as they've been dealt to me with minimal whining. I receive the life I ordain, one choice at a time, in exchange. I'm learning that when I feel stuck, I'm probably better served by first proliferating choices rather than by initiating a search for some probably mythical best choice; that few choices prove irrevocable. I'm learning that choices seem to be self-correcting, as long as I can somehow maintain consciousness after making a choice. I more deeply understand that my choices span out infinitely, that the purpose of choosing must never be to terminate the need to further choose. There never was any answer, just an endless stream of puzzling questions to which I get to respond.

There, that explanation settles that. Unsettling, isn't it?

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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