I have long been a frequent and vocal critic of what passes for an education system in our nation. Sometimes, when stewing over the human tragedy resulting from the substitution of indoctrination for true education, I ask myself – were I empowered to determine one thing to stress in our attempts to educate, what would that be?
Certainly we must try to instill and build the basic skills – the traditional “3 R’s”. But, this alone is not enough. Then I think that teaching the discipline of “critical thinking” (the skill of taking in unfiltered information then using it to make rational decisions) would be an obvious benefit. While it surely would, this too is not enough (nor is it about to happen in the foreseeable future). So, I once again consult with myself, asking what other thing, preferably a simple thing, do our people need to help them better navigate the endless stream of choices that constitute human life?
Amazingly, myself somehow suggested an answer; It occurred to myself that, in general, our people do not know or understand what I call “The Reality Of Choice”.
What do I mean by this? Several different but intertwined things:
First, while human life, in its essentials, is obviously an ongoing series of bio-physical events that sustain our organic beings until such time as they cease to function properly. This is well enough and easy enough to understand. However, as implied above, there is a parallel series of events that serve to determine how we will add the dimension of humanity to our organic lives – those events that will determine who and what we are; how our lives will develop; what higher value we will derive from simply living. This second series of events are nothing more or less that an endless series of choices. Choices that, whether we like it or not, MUST be made.
Indeed, the non-biological part of human life can be reduced to that one simple fact: we travel through life from one choice (and its consequences) to the next choice (and its consequences), often overlapping, and never ending (until organic life itself ends). And, the net result of these choices will determine virtually every aspect our lives: Will we be ignorant or wise? Will we be free or slaves? Will we be criminal or decent? Will we marry? If so, whom (and how often)? Will we have children? Will we enjoy good health? Will we be satisfied with our lives? On and on in an inexhaustible chain.
For certain, a small part of each life is determined by random events, totally beyond our control. For instance, as a child I might make all the very best choices in preparation for the adult life I desire only to have a meteor fall on my head just as I set out to conquer my world. But such occurrences are so infrequent and so unlikely that they not really worth consideration – as if there were considerations that would matter anyway.
It is also true that we can be, and often are, caught up in events that seem (and may well be) totally beyond our control – for instance, an attack like the one on 9-11-2001. But, this too is much less likely to happen to any given individual that the nanny state would have us believe.
Then there is the apparent fact, more seemingly real for some than for others, that we are mostly driven by the choices of others. And, this is where a real understanding of “The Reality Of Choice” becomes crucial in each of our lives.
Let us step back and discuss a few more basic and obvious facts before continuing this line of thought:
Fact 1: People often try to reconcile the consequences of poor choices with the notion that they personally made no such choices – they were made for them by “others’ (whoever they may be). Sorry to tell you but the actual fact is that the delegation of mandatory choices to “others” is, in itself, a choice freely made by you.
Fact 2: Expecting any “other” (to whom you delegate your choices) to better understand your wants and needs than you should; to care more about the consequences to you of those choices than you should, is an exercise in pure self-delusion. And, this is equally true whether that “other” is a loved one, a supposed charity group, the government, or whatever invisible force up there in the sky that you may choose to delegate to.
Fact 3: As implied previously, virtually every important aspect of every human life will be based on choices made – choices which MUST be made. Free people make as many of these choices as possible for themselves. Un-free people leave most of the choices to be made for them by the “others”. This leads to another obvious fact:
Fact 4: The very measure of individual freedom is based on the percent of choices made by the individual (versus the “others”). At the lowest extreme of this measure we find the slave who, by definition, is allowed to make almost no choices of consequence. Of course, at the highest extreme would be the totally free person who make all choices of consequence for themselves and probably for some non-choosers as well. A possibly surprising aspect of this notion does not occur to many of us: a slave and a free person may spend their days performing exactly the same acts, the only difference being that the free person can look back on the completed acts with a sense of accomplishment while the slave likely takes that same look back through the lens of resentment and the frustration of coercion and constraint. One obvious conclusion we can draw from this is that to experience the most freedom, one must have the will to do what is necessary to prepare themselves to make the best choices for their personal circumstances and the determination to deny “others” the power to make those choices for them.
OK then, we have been through a long ramble but to what point(s)? To this — The Reality Of Choice is that:
→ Human life is little more than an endless series of choices that MUST be made. If you cannot or will not make these choices for yourself, others will make them for you.
→ Freedom is nothing more than preserving the right to make one’s own choices in the manner best suited to one’s own circumstances, wants and needs. Conversely, no person is truly free whose choices are made by others.
→ The freedom to makes one’s own choices derives from the determination to do so and the development of the requisite skills and abilities.
→ Whatever your current situation and your satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with it, you no doubt chose that situation for yourself – whether by intent or by choosing to let others choose for you.
To paraphrase William Shakespeare: To be or not to be – that is your choice.
The next time you are tempted to stew about all the things “they” have “done to you”, please Think about it.
Troy L Robinson