Monday, 7 July 2014


There are days when I think my life is largely made up of the decisions I make and then living the outcomes.  That might sound a bit bleak, but there's more than just a kernel of truth in it.  

One aspect of the human condition setting us apart from most of the other animals on the planet is the ability (perhaps I should say "need") to make decisions.  There will be some people who argue that it's possible to live without making decisions (what kind of life would that be?), but the philosopher in me says that living without making decisions is a decision in itself.  I cannot live without taking decisions, exercising the freedom of choice with which I was born.  There is something god-like in that statement - perhaps it is one meaning of the phrase, "man was made in the image of God," the ultimate decision-maker.

Some of us are faced with monumental decisions; others, perhaps the lucky among us, deal only with the minor every-day decisions of life.  But that too, is a matter of perspective.  I know that I can agonize for days about mundane matters, bouncing back and forth between options, stalling and backing away from the point of decision.  Conversely, on momentous issues, the decisions can come quickly and easily, without a lot of conscious deliberation.

I recently heard the Moderator of the United Church of Canada speak in Toronto.  He talked about the challenge of being church in these modern days of spectacle, times of turmoil and chaos, these days of endless conflict and change.  At some point in his discourse, he reflected on making hard decisions and he recited this poem from memory:


Between two words
choose the quieter one.

Between word and silence
choose listening.

Between two books
choose the dustier one.

Between the earth and the sky
choose a bird.

Between two animals
choose the one who needs you more.

Between two children
choose both.

Between the lesser and the bigger evil
choose neither.

Between hope and despair
choose hope:
it will be harder to bear.
by Boris Novak (translated by Dintinjana)

At the time, I was struck mostly by Gary Patterson's ability to quote poetry, and the lines that stayed with me were the last stanza about hope and despair.  But, I found some time to retrieve the whole poem from an on-line source and when I read it over again, something else important emerged.

As a decision maker, I am prone to thinking in binary terms:  yes-or-no, on-or-off, open-or-closed.  I think I share that tendency with most people.  But this Croatian poet elegantly relates a third way to look at life and the decisions it requires...a middle way, I might call it, a loving way.  That term, the middle way, is one that is familiar to those who practice meditation in all its many forms - so, no credit to me for using it.  It is however, an apt description of an alternative to binary thinking...or what others refer to as the all or nothing approach.

The middle way is one of balance - precarious at times, but still attainable.  I sense that in my searching for the Spirit in my life, it will find me at the point of balance.  I think that the Divine is most discernable in that state of balance.  I think that everything important to human happiness is found at the point of balance; I know that I am least at peace when I am unbalanced.  I think that it is love that brings me back to balance.

The most precious commodities on earth are not gold, silver, platinum or oil.  They are balance and love.

<>< Pat

No comments:

Post a Comment