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Creatures of choice

June 3rd, 2004 · 2 Comments

My children are teaching me about choice. Choice isn’t a concept I grew up having and living. Life to me felt forced. Deprived. Dead-end. I had to do A. I must become B. When I decided not to be C, I precipitated a disaster.

But when my 21-month-old toddler wakes up every morning, the first thing she wants to do when I take her out of the crib is select her socks. I hold her up to the shelf where I keep her clothes, and she picks out a pair. She doesn’t want me to do it for her. She wants to choose. As a little child, already she wants to feel that freedom. It is inherent.

After some experiences and intense introspection in the past year, I’ve started to see life as choices rather than cages. I’ve realized how important it is to see that there are always at least two options. I believe in consequences. Not all choices have equal results. Cause and effect function in the universe. And not all options are good or appropriate. For example, I have to direct Elisabeth to choose socks, not the swimsuit or hat that happen to be stored on the same shelf. Especially as a parent, I believe that sometimes choices should be restricted.

I believe in morality and in living by principles and beliefs. However, I think that if I choose to define myself by some set of rules, if I eliminate choices because it doesn’t fit with my religion, or with the image I want others to perceive of me, then I am simply becoming cardboard, a statue, rigid, less than alive. Living life by a simple list of “do”s and “don’ts” leads to confinement and conformity.

What I’m discussing is more serious than a child selecting socks, yes, I know. I’m not condoning evil, going against religion or defying authority. But what’s changing my life and spirit, what is helping me find hope and peace, is learning to consider the choices, all the options in a situation. To look at all the consequences. To realize why I might want to choose one path over another. And then to take that choice with passion and zeal – as well as reason and intelligence – knowing that it is what I want, rather than something I passively accepted because I felt forced into being a definition or living by a label. Not that I would change many of the decisions I’ve made. I’d probably still pick the same paths. Maybe it’s mere mental exercise or simply psychological perception. But I’ve found incredible freedom looking at life in this new way, seeing my series of choices.

Many of the explanations – legends, myths, stories – that describe how the world became the way it is involve at least one person or creature making a deliberate choice. A decision happened. When I look at Adam and Eve in the Garden, what I see are two creatures who were given a choice. The choice had consequences. Severe ones. But from the beginning – as my baby shows me every morning – humans were made to be creatures of choice.

Tags: journal

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kris Hasson-Jones // Jun 3, 2004 at 11:02 am

    As an adult convert to Judaism, I’d like you to consider that observance of religion can be a constant, daily series of choices, not just cardboard adherence to a pre-selected dictate of how to live. I have to consider whether and how things fit into my religious observance and vice versa.

  • 2 Julie // Jun 3, 2004 at 5:16 pm

    I see your perspective – thanks for your comment. As I’ve gotten older I’ve wrestled more with what I believe and found that living out my faith in daily life is complicated. When I was a child though, religion seemed much more like do’s and don’t’s, things we had to do or should do, cut and dried, rather than, as you describe, a constant, daily series of choices. Quite possibly though my perspective of my family’s religion was muddled by other experiences and attitudes in our lives – as well as my own immaturity.