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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Choice is tragic. Choice is celebration.

I am in yet another expensive hotel conference room, listening to yet another expensive speaker give yet another low-value presentation. I wonder what would be the impact on my life were I not to spend these hours like this. Would my searching spirit soar somehow higher? Would my creative arc and output flourish? Or would I simply transfer that time, that investment of a non-renewable portion of my life, to other (albeit self-selected) valueless drains of attention, passion and energy?

This is nothing less than the question of what I would do if I were given extra days to live -- not at the end of life, when the lights are dimming, but today. And then, of course, it's really no different than the alarming challenge that confronts each of us each day, but that almost all of us luxuriate in the false comfort of ignoring: What is it I want to make of my life, out of its diaphanous, fragile fabric, and how can I best bend this piece of daylight to that aspiration?

Is it only because I am getting older that this question presses more urgently than before, as remaining time is increasingly scarce? Or is it because some of the things that seemed like important aspirations when I was younger now appear less worthy as lifetime achievements -- either because, having achieved some of them, I appreciate their rank modesty, or because my values have changed?

Like many, I often evaluate myself, my achievements and, to some degree, my self-worth, on terms that are not wholly my own. Right now, I am sitting in a large room full of people who, by their presence here, proclaim their allegiance to a set of metrics of self worth -- in other words, a set of values -- that are tied to conformity and money and achievement of professional rank in an arbitrary commercial structure. I am one of them.

No doubt they have other values, too: individual by individual, they may measure their worth as fathers and mothers, as lovers, as friends, as servants of various gods, as amateur musicians/artists/authors, as moral human beings. The list, just for this room, would be long, indeed. And, perhaps, for many of them, the values that bring them to this room comprise only a small portion of their platform of self-worth. But, honestly, that's not very likely.

These are all senior executives. For most, they will only have achieved their elevated positions by giving their professional metrics priority over others in their lives.

I am one of them.

The sacrifices made -- to prioritize professional achievement is to de-prioritize investment in other values -- offer bracing, sometimes bitter, food for thought: the things we aren't doing, the things we aren't putting our hearts, minds and bodies into every day, and the things we are therefore not achieving over the course of our lives.

But we vote with our feet every day.

I listen to these presentations. I look around me at a room of (mostly older) people who have chosen to spend their Saturday morning as a life tax to be a member of this group. I am willing to cop to that choice (and then how many other decisions very like that one?), but I am not willing to continue being lazy about my choices, generally. I want to make every vote with my feet count.

You pass an age when the Playboy centrefolds are suddenly much younger than you. Later, you pass an age when the professional/sports/social hotshots are younger than you. Later still, perhaps you pass an age when those with the most passion for what they're doing in their lives are younger than you. But only this last is a choice.


Comments on "Choice is tragic. Choice is celebration."


Anonymous hotchick said ... (11:06 PM) : 

It makes me think each day about my direction and where my feet are pointing...thanks, my son, for beaming me that to live by.


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