Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year and a Return to Blogging

Once again, I'm back; this time after a 5 month hiatus. I've been away for several reasons. I just finished some remodeling work in my house, which took a lot longer than I thought. My house is almost 100 years old, so there's always something to be done, and it's never as simple as it starts out to be. Then, too, I had to enjoy the summer. But, it's the new year, and it's time get back on the horse. I do enjoy blogging. It just takes so much energy.

The New York Times has an interesting article entitled, "The New Year's Cocktail: Regret with a Dash of Bitters." It's about New Years Day descent into regret about choices not made:

An opportunity, that is, to forestall the traditional morning-after descent into self-examination, that lonely echo chamber of what should and could be.

Ghosts roam around down there, after all, and they are the worst kind — alternate versions of oneself. The one who did not quit graduate school, for instance. The one who made the marriage work. Or stuck with singing, playwriting or painting and made a career of it.

Lost possible selves, some psychologists call them. Others are more blunt: the person you could have been.

This is a lyrical, but a-grammatical passage, which is somewhat surprising for the Times. But I like the metaphor of the ghosts. Looking at those ghosts may make us say, "If only I had done this differently, my life would have been WONDERFUL!!"

Ecch. When I start thinking that way, I always get in contact with my inner H. L. Mencken. Yeah, I could have stuck with singing. And today I could be living in a dump asking myself why I didn't go to grad school.

Life is about choices. Every time we make a choice, we cut off one universe of possibilities and embrace another universe of possibilities. I think of these possibilities as paths, and we walk along the path set by our previous choices. The great joy of life is how those paths take us to unpredictable places. Sometimes the places are enjoyable, sometimes they're not. When we find our path taking us to a place we don't want to be, all we can do is make new choices.

Because of this idea, I've been trying to stop referring to good or bad decisions. A decision puts us on a path which itself is infinite, so it never “turns out.” It simply opens up some choices and closes off others. I can make a decision very carefully, by considering all the options, seeking advice, and carefully selecting a plan of action. It can still put me on a path that takes me to a bad place. Once I see that I'm coming to a bad place all I can do it make new choices. But I will never know what would have happened if I had made a different choice and not taken that path.

Ultimately, our lives are the totality of the choices made and the paths taken. When we take a path, we make it real. The paths not taken exist only in the realm of imagination. So, if you ever find yourself wondering, "Why was I so stupid as to make that choice?" just remember the old line. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."Then go and make more decisions and make some new paths real.

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