PostHeaderIcon The Reality Of Choice

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

12 Responses to “The Reality Of Choice”

  • Jerry Elkins says:

    I agree with you Troy. Choices have to be made. And that means good choices. “Others” as you put it will make choices, but remember the choices they make for you will enhance their life, not necessarily yours.

    Good choices also need to embrace change as well. As we go thru life there will be many changes that need (MUST) be dealt with and we are back to your point. (Choices) are part of our daily bread.

    We all will make a poor choice. Some more than others. A poor choice (when discovered) requires another choice as soon as possible.

    Enjoyed your post.

    • Troy says:

      Thank you.

      Another Reality Of Choice is that, for any specific question, there is no single “best” choice that is best for everyone who may face said question. The “best” choice for any individual depends completely on that individual’s wants, needs, their unique circumstance at the moment and myriad other strictly individual factors.

      This is one reason why individual freedom is ALWAYS superior to the supposed equality of the collective. However well meant (and I doubt most are), the universal “one size fits all” choices made for us by the nanny state are never best for any given individual even though they may seem “best” for the non-existent composite person the nanny state seeks to “protect” (read: manipulate).

      Thanks again for responding. The real aim here is not to deliver sermons — instead, it is to start conversations.


  • Troy, I know it is off your point, which is a good one; but reading this I couldn’t help recalling one of my favorite poems, “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost. I have often mused about how a seemingly minor choice, all the way back in our youth, led to a series of events and other choices, any of which had we made a different choice, our lives would have been drastically different today. It might have even been a boneheaded decision at the time, which led to very negative immediate consequences; yet that failure set up the circumstances that several choices later, led to a more propitious choice that brought great joy to our lives.

    E.g., think of some poor choice you once made, that had you not made it, your life trajectory would not have led you to the circumstances where you met J9. Then, had you not met her, it is unlikely that we both would have joined that Freethinker BOF and met online. Had I not met you, it is unlikely that there would be a Thoughts Aloud blog. For grins, you might want to reread one of my first posts here, exactly six years ago today: Global Warming Hype â—„Daveâ–º

  • Chris says:

    Which brings us right back to where we started. The absolute need for “critical thinking”. When you look at any choice that is made it has to be based on criteria or circumstances most likely influenced by a choice that was already made. Changing criteria requires different choices. Without critical thinking to adjust those choices the choices never change. You keep doing the same thing over and over. We all know what that makes you.

    • Chris says:

      Simple concept. A person must be allowed to fail as well as succeed when young so they learn how not to fail and how to succeed. The desire to make all children “feel good” and “be equal” no matter what their performance is the most damage you can ever do to a child. They never learn to make good choices because bad choices are just as good..

      • This is ‘critical’ to out future. If we don’t somehow save the kids from this crippling folly, there won’t be one… â—„Daveâ–º

        • Oscar Booth says:

          It’s hard to save the kids with un-saved parents

          • More than you might imagine, Oscar. In my Montessori preschool, I frequently had to carefully impart some basic parenting advice to clueless parents, to change a child’s home environment, before I had a hope of saving them from a childhood drugged out on Ritalin, which would have been their fate in public school, if they didn’t learn to control themselves. Fortunately, by the time they got to me after getting expelled from a few other preschools, parents were usually so desperate for help they actually listened and cooperated. We saved all, whose parents would cooperate, which was most rewarding. 🙂 â—„Daveâ–º

      • Troy says:

        A person must be allowed to fail as well as succeed when young so they learn how not to fail and how to succeed.

        How perfectly true this is. But then, why, as a society, are we so failure adverse?

        My guess is that it is because we frame failure in the wrong way. For sure, some failures are final and fatal. But, most of them are nothing more than valuable learning steps on the road toward success.

        Could this be because we no longer distinguish between what you are and what you do? Good people with noble intentions make mistakes. So what? Often this happens simply because they reached beyond the scope of their present knowledge. But, in the process, what we may label “failure” was actually the exercise that extended that knowledge such that the next attempt succeeded.

        What your comment infers is so very true… to not risk failure is to not risk success. Yet another “failure” of what passes for education in this land.

        Thanks for commenting.


        • Chris says:

          “But then, why, as a society, are we so failure adverse?”

          There are two kinds of failure. Failure from inexperience or lack of knowledge and failure from stupidity. There is a difference.

          When a child is first learning to ride a bicycle generally the first few times they’re going to fall over. That is a failure but not a failure that is viewed in a bad light. It’s a failure of inexperience. It happens and should but eventually that child learns how to ride that bicycle. Falling over taught them what to do and not to do to avoid failure.

          It’s the stupid failure that should be frowned upon. The failure of someone with experience trying and failing but not adapting or changing strategy or method from the knowledge gained by the experience of failure. That’s the person that forces you to say “jeeeez you think you would learn”.

          The reason society is so failure averse is that the difference between the two types of failure has been skewed by the desire to feel good all the time. We are told that it is our right to be happy. It’s the right of the stupid failure that doesn’t have a shot at success to be as happy as the inexperienced failure who may some day succeed.

          That child that was whining and saying “I can’t do it” after the first couple falls always has the broadest biggest widest smile when all of a sudden they realize that they can. I have seen it a few times. 🙂 Conquering the beast gives much more joy than not meeting the beast at all. That’s probably one of the first best lessons for a child about the benefits of failure to learning. After that they go to school and the lesson is lost. They are taught that they shouldn’t be any happier that they can ride a bicycle than they should be that their friend can’t.

  • Shilah bat Eliyahu says:

    “…Could this be because we no longer distinguish between what you are and what you do?..”
    “…The reason society is so failure averse is that the difference between the two types of failure has been skewed by the desire to feel good all the time. We are told that it is our right to be happy….”

    It gives me great pleasure to announce you are (IMHO) BOTH right! we have two winners! yay ! ;-D

    lol…seriously though… in my worldview, a force of evil is constantly trying to corrupt anything & anyone good. If this can be accomplished by mere luring Good toward Mediocre, fine. Eventually Mediocre becomes Evil through the simple practice of self-justification. No one really wants to admit they goofed. (Maybe this is where the Puritans got the idea that Pride was the original sin.)

    This Evil wants to lure mankind away from our Creator. Thus, we are told we 1)can be happy here (which is false; this is a fallen world) and 2)we have a Right to be happy here (which is also false). Sure, we have the right to PURSUE happiness, but not to be handed happiness… not in this world.
    This Evil also wants us to identify Who We Are, with ‘what we do”, so that
    a)we won’t ask anyone to change us (i.e.God), and b)we will insist on clinging to the very evils that make this world so unhappy. This leads to c)an inability — yes unwillingness is part of it but an inability is a big part, IMHO– to even imagine a Being who would “love the sin but hate the sinner”.
    So, we end up with previously sound-thinking conservatives who, upon learning that their child identifies as gay, promptly do an about-face and say “well, homosexuality isn’t wrong after all.” If you ask them to insert a less flammable word in its place, such as kleptomania, they see the folly of their position. Unfortunately, the critical thinkers are becoming fewer.

    I am thoroughly enjoying reading this blog & I thank you for letting me participate. 🙂

    • LOL… Great comment, Shilah. I like your wit. You are most welcome to participate here, as long as you understand and tolerate that Troy and I are rather skeptical of unseen mystical forces. I respect your right to a differing worldview, and appreciate that you seem nonjudgmental of those who do not share it. As you may have noticed on FT, I can engage in polite debate on such matters, if my opponent is willing to discuss ideas rather than engage in ad hominem attacks. We should get along fine. Welcome aboard. â—„Daveâ–º

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