That’s a pretty innocuous question at first blush. I can’t remember what I was doing when it popped into my head. I do remember thinking, “Well of course they do.” But, the more I thought about it, I discovered that it’s that simple and at the same time not that simple.
A Butterfly Buys a $5 Latte
Silly example. We all know butterflies drink nectar. But, we must understand that we live in an infinitely connected universe. Every interaction we have was caused by something and will affect something else. Cause and effect. So, if every action, even the smallest like buying a coffee, and every inaction is connected to everything else through an infinite series of threads, it would seem logical that how we handle those threads should be of the utmost importance. I feel, however, that quite a large part of humanity has lost sight of this fact, especially those of us that live in developed parts of the world. The effects and consequences of so many decisions and choices get lost in the noise of a bustling and busy society. And as with so much noise, we soon tune it all out.
Is Every Decision a Gamble?
I just recently picked up a new to me book: Adrift by Steven Callahan. It’s his story of being at sea in a life raft with minimal supplies for 76 days.
Every time I decide on taking action, I run through the possible results to try to rationally decide on the best thing to do, but I am finding that all decisions are a two-edged sword, that any action may both benefit me and harm me. In the final analysis, everything is a gamble.
In his situation, to literally survive, he has to live deliberately. He has to be aware of the consequences of every single choice he makes. Risk analysis becomes an integral part of every single decision. For a vast number of us, the most important decision that we make is what we are going to have for lunch. Apart from that, we run on autopilot. We are oblivious to the choices that we actually make and how they impact us and sometimes more importantly those around us.
Choose to Consciously Choose
What a circular concept. But, it is indeed how things work. We make choices that govern how we make choices. The key is to choose to be aware of this. This feels very much like it could devolve into a discussion on free will, but I’ll assume that we have it and with it, or rather from it, we have to power to make choices. I think that a simple life also means a simplification of the number of choices that we must make. Someone once told me that they become overwhelmed by the staggering number of options that are available to them at the grocery store. I have found that I suppose I once was as well, I just wasn’t really aware of it. I could wander up and down an aisle taking minutes upon minutes pondering my choice of a particular product. I have now simplified things quite a bit. I literally don’t allow all of the “choices” to be choices. I have chosen to consciously “pre-filter” the choices so that I make available to myself a very limited number of options among ALL of the available options. There is of course risk in this in that I might be removing a very good and beneficial option. But, then conversely, I am also removing the risk that I might more readily choose something that is certainly not good at all and thus misappropriate the limited resources that I have. A very simple example of this is the idea that when you go to the grocery store, you stay on the outside perimeter and avoid the vast majority of the inner aisles. This is a pre-filter. From here additional filters can be added that narrow and focus your available choices to those things that are important. Ingredients, cost, supplier, supplier ethics, GMO or non-GMO, etc. This can even be applied to emotional responses. If the choice is made to simply not allow anger to be an emotional response to an event, then in practice, it soon becomes unavailable as a response to what is perceived as an unpleasant event. And that’s what is at the foundation of it all: choosing what is important, our principles, and then making the remainder of our choices stem from those principles so that we can take care of the threads connecting us to those things that we feel are the most important.