Friday, October 06, 2006

No guardian angels 

I’ll probably lose the few (two?) readers I have left with this, but what the hell. It’s what’s been bouncing round in my mind lately so it might as well have an airing. Publish and be damned, I say.

If the fancy took me, I could decide on the way home one night to point my motorbike a few degrees off course, head it towards a concrete bridge support and open the throttle wide. It wouldn’t take much; not physically. Just a tiny, almost insignificant action - a minor movement of a few wrist muscles, a slight shift of balance - but no guardian angel could alter the inevitable consequence that seconds later my head would slam into concrete at 90mph, my neck would snap and that would be that.

Just as well then that I’m not feeling suicidal. But equally simple decisions can have effects almost as dramatic, sending life forever down a different path. Just because the path isn’t a dead-end doesn’t make the choice any easier to undo. And the guardian angels remain just as powerless to intervene.

I used to subscribe firmly to the view that things generally work out for the best. I still do believe that you can usually find good in a situation if you go looking for it, but I’m beginning to appreciate the difference between ‘good’ and ‘best’. They may be on the same scale, but they can be worlds apart.

They say that The Universe cooperates in creating the future you strive for. Well, that cuts both ways; the universe exhibits neither beneficence nor malevolence. You can strive for something special or by not striving you can choose the default option; you can choose the high road or the low road - the universe doesn’t care. So if you choose to cut yourself off from yourself, from your being, your purpose, your destiny, no-one is going to stand in your way.

If you’re thinking of doing something dumb with your future, get this: there are no white knights in shining armour waiting to rescue you; no Gandalf-like wizards who will appear at your side to point out your folly and to guide back to the path of your destiny; no guardian angels to protect you from the consequences of your own stupidity. Sages may happen by with words of wisdom, but no-one will point them out to you or compel you to listen. You want to screw up? Give up on yourself? Fine, go ahead; the universe won’t stand in your way. Probably won’t even do so much as watch from the sidelines, sadly shaking its head at the loss; the universe won’t even notice.

The full extent of freedom of choice, if we could truly see it for what it is, would be frightening – as frightening and as easy to enact as slamming into that concrete bridge at some insane speed. Since there are no guardian angels, we have to provide our own protection, so we build high strong walls of excuses to protect ourselves from the horrors of free choice; we kid ourselves that we’re firmly bound with ropes of circumstances to keep us from the edge of the vertiginous drop at our feet. Sometimes slavery feels preferable to truly free choice. It must do – we choose it often enough.

You’re on your own: the choice is yours and yours alone. But sitting on the sidelines watching isn’t an option: if you don’t swim, you’ll sink – it’s up to you.

What do you really want?

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