The Reality of Choice
"You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live;"
-- Deut. 30:19
We live in a world where we feel an increasing loss of control. The opportunity to earn an adequate living is decreasing. Pensions are shrinking or vanishing. Availability of health care is being questioned. The world in which we once found our security is changing. These are not outcomes of our choice. Forces are acting on us that we cannot control. We are being dragged in a direction that is further and further from our "comfort zone". What can we do?
Many years ago, I visited the New Jersey shore. It was after vacation season, and the beach was empty. The day was beautiful and the ocean was so tempting. I was a strong and experienced swimmer, so I decided to go into the ocean anyway. The ocean was calm and I swam out quite far. Suddenly the tide began to change and I started swimming straight back to the beach. As I struggled to get back, I noticed that I was being dragged toward a jetty. The harder I tried to swim toward the beach, the faster I was being dragged toward the jetty. Reaching near exhaustion, I had to stop and try to catch my breath. While treading water, I noticed that the waves were hitting the beach diagonally. And, they were reaching the beach before smashing into the jetty. I immediately changed my approach and, started swimming in the direction of the waves. Although it was still difficult, I was able to use my strength, with the help of the waves, to get safely to the beach.
This incident offers a paradigm for addressing the issues relating to our current situation. First, when the tide started to change, I responded to an inner voice saying swim straight to the beach. Next, as I was struggling to avoid the jetty, I was forced to face the reality that the force of the ocean was overpowering. I had virtually no control. The ocean was determining where I was going. Then, I realized that, if I was to survive, I had to adapt to the reality of the ocean.
If I continued to struggle against the tide, I would not have made it to the beach. If I simply submitted to the ocean and did not add my effort, I probably would not have made it. I had to form a "partnership" with the ocean. I had to "choose life".
As far as we know, humanity's relationship with reality is unique. All other living creatures appear to passively adapt to the environment in which they are embedded. Only the human has the capacity to actively influence its adaptation. Humans, if they choose, can become participants in the process of adaptation. We can become partners with reality.
In order to achieve this partnership, we must recognize two essential principles. First, we have little or no influence over the realities acting upon us. They are the products of nature and/or history. In business, there is a saying that a good CEO controls about twenty percent of his/her business, influences about twenty percent and neither controls nor influences the rest. His/her success depends on how he/she responds to the remaining sixty percent. In life, the relative percent of control and influence is even less.
This leads to the second principle. Success or failure depends on our response to the reality in which we are embedded. This means that we must align ourselves with the rules of that reality. For humans, adaptation is not submission. It is the creation of that "partnership". This is the key to self-empowerment.
In metaphysical terms, this is the story of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph. Each were plucked out of their comfort zones and required to adapt. Each confrontation was a test that increased their ability to form a partnership with the Power of the Universe.
How can we increase our awareness of reality in our everyday life? What must we require of ourselves? The journey to self-empowerment continues.
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