Paying Attention
Bill McDonald’s Website Newsletter
May 2018 - Volume 18, No. 5
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Always More Choices

It’s easy to say it, and at first maybe not difficult to believe.

There are always more choices available to us in any given situation than we are or even can be aware of.

In my counseling work, I’ll sometimes say “Start giving me a list of all the choices you’ve got here.” Then I’ll urge them on, “Give me some more, give me some more.” They’ll get to the point where they say, “well those aren’t realistic.” I don’t want folks here to have to be realistic; what I want is for them to realize there are lots and lots of choices. Most of us know about individual or group ‘brainstorming’ - where initially you don’t censor the list.

Of course, many choices aren’t ones we’d choose to act on. Some are illegal, some may land you in prison, or in bankruptcy, or hospitalized, or in a morgue. Others we wouldn’t choose due to a negative effect on others, or especially those we love & care about. (But then maybe we should keep some of those still on our list.)

Often folks will get upset with me - they really don’t want any more choices. Having more choices, having a greater freedom to choose, also reminds us about being more responsible for ourselves, like being more responsible for the outcome of a conversation. Very often that’s not a comfortable place to be in.

Many would rather have fewer or no choices - that way they can be Victims. It seems much easier! Then you would have license to make someone else be responsible. Projecting fault onto someone or something else is much easier than taking personal responsibility. That itself becomes a choice - a choice to put blame or even suffering onto someone else - a most popular human behavior.

As humans, we are a unique choice-making species.

We are much more consciously in charge of our destinies than any other species upon the planet (though there are those who disagree with me.) And when we fail at it, or choose carelessly, we often pay a price, or at least someone does. “Whatsoever a man sows, that also shall he reap.”

That to me is the most important meaning of the Adam & Eve in the Garden story. The Lord God set a boundary - the first “thou shalt not...” Eve and Adam each chose to eat the apple anyway. Then Eve blamed the serpent, and Adam blamed Eve. After the choice to disobey the Lord God, came the choice to blame another. Those two choices made it impossible to remain in the Garden, to forever lose Paradise - but apparently to never lose it’s hope. According to the Genesis narrative, that was the beginning of Human History. Human history began with a choice made in freedom, and has forever continued as a subsequent narrative of choices made all the way down to and through our own time.


Let me make a comment about the meaning of “freedom” here. My in-computer (Apple) dictionary offers this definition: “the power of self-determination attributed to the will.” It also seems to have emerged at the same time as the beginning of Human History. It’s just not a given or created thing. Rather it is the handmaid of of a higher order of things - the uniquely human freedom and necessity to make choices. As the Serpent promised Eve -  “you will be like God.”

The necessity of choice

We humans can observe and learn much from studying the “natural order” of the world of things and especially of (other than human) sentient beings. Indigenous communities around the world find their best textbook of life in the study and emulation of Nature. And what they discover there are the age-old patterns of an inherent balance among all Creation.

Yet it seems that we humans don’t have such a natural ease. If you leave us to our own ‘natural’ resources, we’re going to mess things up. And it’s obvious these days from just looking around. So many of the world’s origin narratives (stories/myths) attest from the beginning to this difficulty among humans. What the rest of the sentient world can know by nature, we humans have to choose.

That’s why I wrote above, “as humans, we are a unique choice-making species.” Also the inner process of making human choices involves human consciousness. Making choices is an art of conscious action, which carries the hope of saving humans from being just stupid and destructive.

Hope for humans

What I am arguing here is that when I work with a person or a couple in researching and making decisions (for example about an upcoming family vacation), I am also teaching them the art of choosing from within an abundance of imagination. With a sense of an abundance of choices, we can avoid that poverty of imagination which so easily leads us into narrow choices that can separate us from each other.

As we look around (if our vision isn’t too narrow), we can see that these days we just can’t afford to be stuck with too few choices.

There are always more choices available to us in any given situation than we are or even can be aware of.

It’s quite simple. Indulge your creative mind with many choices, before you choose one of them. It can be a lot more fun, and the world will be a much livelier and interesting place.

Some call it “living life to the fullest”.

And some see it as a distinct blessing - our best response to having been kicked out of the Garden.

Pay attention!

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Bill McDonald
Fenton, Michigan

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