Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Right Choice

Freedom is the right to choose, the right to create for oneself the alternatives of choice.

Archibald MacLeish


Hello Jen


Choices. Choices. Should I have the baked clams or the crab cake? Should I wear the red dress with the black sash or the blue one with the green scarf? Should I shop at Walmart or Home Depot? Those are simple choices.

Then there are the more complicated ones. Who should I vote for? I know of a woman who only votes the way her husband tells her to. Should I go to the college my brother went to because he went there? Wrong choice. Should I get married? Another wrong choice.

Some choices are hard and take time, patience and, perhaps, advice. But seeking advice is also a matter of choice. Are you going to get the best advice, do you know and respect the person you are asking, is the advice you want worthy of the mind and experience of the person you are asking? Remembering that the choice is yours so long as you exercise your right to make a choice you are only seeking advice and not asking that a choice be made for you. If the person you ask is wild about baked clams you may be pushed in that direction and not because you choose to be.

I vividly recall two incidents when it was necessary to focus on the creation of the alternative of choice. The first involves a college Philosophy professor. He was a man whose knowledge and opinions I respected, but he made some statements in one of his lectures that did not seem to correspond to my own reading on the same issues. I got an appointment with him to discuss the matter. After a few minutes of conversation I ventured my own thoughts to hear his reaction and, maybe, to be corrected. But his response was simply "Well, fortunately it doesn't matter what you think." I was stunned by that answer and still am. If it doesn't matter what I think, why think? I rejected his opinion and got on with life.

The second evens happened years later and involved a junior high school student. I was working for a theatre company that toured schools and other institutions with short plays followed by discussions. For one of the plays I had composed some complex music. Someone always asked what the music meant and we always turned the question back to get students' opinions. As we were packing up to leave one particular school the young fellow came up to me and told me what he thought the music meant. Then he said he was probably wrong because he had been graded by the state as being unable to understand certain ideas. I jumped off the stage and went up to him. I told him he had just given me the best explanation I had heard yet about the music. Then I told him to never let anyone ever tell him that he was incapable of understanding something, anything. In his case the right to choose the alternative of choice had been taken away from him. Choices had already been made for him. But it did matter what he thought. And I hope my advice had a lasting effect on him.

Someone else's opinion may be the best but don't choose it just on that basis. Don't be told it doesn't matter what yu choose and don't be fooled into thinking you're not smart enough to make the right choice. We think for ourselves, that's what we do. I choose the crab cakes.


Dana Bate

Vagabond Journeys

Never Give Up


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