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Choose While It Still Counts
by David Truman
Everybody knows tough times are coming. Tough and tougher. And everybody knows that, as economic conditions deteriorate, the tightening of the noose will force people into new ways of living, new lifestyles. Changes of necessity. Changes we didn't choose.
You could expect quite a bit of change if you had three feet of water covering Manhattan due to global warming, or if there were no more gas, no more trees to cut down, no more fish. Things would change quite significantly, then.
But changes of necessity can happen on a smaller scale too. For example, a man spends himself into the poorhouse, then he's evicted. So he's forced to live in the woods. Now, maybe his new lifestyle is actually better. More economical. Smaller footprint. And it's more natural to live in the woods. Right?
But what about this: he didn't choose it.
On one level or another, almost everybody's waiting for something that's going to make them change, make them shape up. That's why we have the expression, "I'm the type of man who turns around when he hits bottom." But when a guy says to me, "I'm the type of man who turns around when he hits bottom," I say, "That's great, except that if change has to be forced upon you, you're not a man at all. You are a victim of circumstances; you are a pawn of forces beyond your control." Not a man -- more like cattle. So perhaps you should've said this: "I'm the type of man who turns around when his bottom is hit." Oh I see -- you were spanked into submission, eh? Good boy!
Hitting bottom and not changing
Can circumstances really force a person to shape up? Who says that guy who was evicted really turned around?
Consequences don't really change people; they just appeal to the same selfish motivations that were always driving them. A selfish person chooses not to do what is right, because it seems like it's more trouble to do it than not do it. But when the consequence of not doing it gets heavy enough, suddenly it's less trouble to do it. So, for the person who's looking for the least possible trouble, the path of least resistance, the consequence has made it possible for them to take their regular selfish value system and get an apparently more civilized result.
Example: A kid never went to work, and for a while, it was strictly to their advantage not to get a job. But then the parent created consequences that made it grossly to the kid's DISadvantage not to go to work. "If you don't go to work, you're out on the street!" Then kid says, "Oh, I see. Well great, then I think I'll get a job."
The parent has learned how to operate the machinery of the kid's psychology. "I know how you think, therefore, I'll say this and you'll do that." And sure enough, it happens exactly that way. But that's not real change. That's more of the same.
The parent may get the kid to go to work, but how does it feel? The kid didn't do it voluntarily. They absolutely refused to do so. So they passed on being a human being. They passed on the virtues and values that characterize humanity: generosity, free giving, compassion, etc. -- the values and virtues of Spirit. They withheld those things, repeatedly, stubbornly, for a long, long time. Finally, after having been given a million chances, it came down to intervention. The intervention was, give or you're going to be hurt. In the face of that, the kid, in their wisdom, gains a new motivation to give: give for the purpose of self-protection. And with that motivation, they start doing behaviors that resemble giving.
But their giving is not worth much. It has little or no heart value, because it's actually a payment for their own survival. It's on the altar of their own survival that they're placing their gifts of so-called giving.
Don't get me wrong. I don't object to trying to survive. I'm just saying: the value of those behaviors is limited by that, sharply limited. And that's why people who wait for consequences to make them do things -- things that would otherwise be good things -- are actually not doing good things. And that's because the intention behind it -- the intention to survive personally -- is not particularly good. It has no spiritual quality, no heart value. Hell, any dog tries to survive. So, being motivated by consequences is no better than the dog level of living.
There's no dignity in being spanked into submission
There's no dignity in being spanked into submission. There's no dignity in just trying to survive. A guy who's going to do wrong until something stops him is giving up his dignity, but what for? He's giving it up because he doesn't want to deliberately choose. He's willing to sacrifice his human dignity on the altar of escaping responsible free choice. He's willing to be forced. "Make me."
My question is: If circumstances make a man change, what credit does he get for the change? And the answer is, of course, none. Yes, something changed, but he gets no credit for it. He had no choice in the matter, and he made no choice. How could he have chosen if he had no choice? Therefore, no credit for choice. Zero. No dignity. No merit. A true man would choose his own destiny. He would not have his destiny be the result of no choice. A true man would be a chooser and a creator, rather than a person who's forced into the life he lives by forces beyond his own control.
Choicelessness: how does it make them feel?
It's already happening. Economic circumstances are forcing people into forms of cooperation, however rudimentary, however choiceless. "I wish I could have this apartment by myself. But I can't. So I advertised, and got you for a roommate. You would be outta here if I could afford to live alone. But I can't; I need a roommate. So, welcome."
Gee, thanks. That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside right there.
Or the woman gives the man the classic line, "I wouldn't marry you if you were the last man on earth." But then, what if for some reason all the men died, and he was the last man on earth. And then, what if she changed her mind? And she said, "Ya know, because you're the last man on earth, I've changed my mind. I will marry you."
How would he feel? How should he feel? Not real happy. I mean, if he had any integrity or pride, he certainly wouldn't feel happy. He wasn't chosen. She had no choice! Get it? "You're my husband. I had no choice." How warm and fuzzy is that?
A real man would like to be chosen out of at least two. And what's more, a real man would like to choose his wife. He wouldn't want life to force him to come crawling back to women he'd rejected -- or to the whole principle of relationship, which perhaps he had rejected. Crawling back and saying, "Here I am. I have no choice, so you're it." But in that case, did he really choose? No! He had no choice. He was forced to it.
It's not a gift when you're forced to give it
Everyone has been in this situation: you were about to give your friend something, but then, they demanded it. You were about to give it freely, which would have made you so happy, and made them so happy. But now that they've demanded it, that's no longer a possibility. Now the best you can do is fulfill a request, or do what you've been forced to do.
So you feel, "Damn, you ruined it for me! I wanted to get you a present, but now you told me to give you a present, so I don't feel motivated to do it anymore. What fun is that? What could have been something freely given is now something given at gunpoint. You're clearly going to be unhappy if I don't give it, right? So now my giving is no longer free."
People get absolutely incensed about that, because they know the difference between giving and being forced to give. They realize, in their intelligence, that they no longer get credit for giving the gift. And yet, in their everyday life, they are forgetting what they know about that. They are waiting for circumstances to force them to give, force them to do the right thing. How smart is that? Not as smart as you are.
People wait for things to get bad to worse, for the pressures to build up. "I know that if it just gets bad enough, I'll do it." But as they wait, they are actually progressively devaluing their giving, because more and more of it is due to this accumulated pressure. More and more, the pressure itself is forcing their hand. And so less and less of the credit goes to their heart.
"I'm waiting for the pressure to build up to be enough to overcome my resistance."
"I'm waiting for the pressure to build up enough for me to overcome my fear of losing face."
"I'm waiting for the pressure to build up enough for me to overcome my self-protective habit."
"I'm waiting for the pressure to build up to overcome my fear."
"I'm waiting for the pressure to build up to create so much guilt that I'll feel if I don't do it I will drive myself completely insane with guilt and shame."
Okay, wait on! But realize, at least, in your intelligence, that you're progressively devaluing the eventuality of your gift. You're causing more and more of it to have been forced, and less and less to be of free heart nature. And it's sad, that.
Choice is what you do when you have options
So I'm saying choose while it still counts. We need to get up early enough to think about the meaning of the word choice. What is choice? Choice is something you do when you have options.
Now, knowing that you can't choose if you have no choice, knowing that there is no credit for choosing when no choice was made, we should take advantage of the temporary possibility of choosing. Then we don't have to say, "I'm a person who chooses when I'm forced to" -- which is a contradiction in terms.
Make the choice for love now, while you have a choice. Make the choice for companionship now. Make the choice for cooperation now. So that you can have credit for having made a choice; and so that what you choose can in fact have been chosen; and so that you yourself can be a chooser and not just a loser, not just a person who was forced. You maintain the dignity and the status of a chooser by choosing, not by being forced to choose when you have no choice.
In the communes of the future, people will come together like so many hyenas that would cooperate to surround and bring down a lame animal. They are cooperating, but not in the spirit of heart. They are not cooperating in love; they are not cooperating to mutual benefit. They are cooperating because each individual realizes that if they don't cooperate, they will die. And so it is in the ghetto already: you join a gang, because otherwise you die.
In the future, there will be communes, because otherwise you die. But those people have not chosen one another. They had no choice, and they are not cooperating by choice, but of necessity only. And, although those alliances are mutually beneficial, they do not intend benefit for one another. Each one intends benefit for himself alone.
It would be like a rich man gets a cute girl, because he wants the benefit of having a cute girl. And the cute girl marries the rich man, because she wants the benefit of his cash, his lifestyle. They are not really there for one another. They are in a cooperative arrangement of a kind, but they are both there for themselves. That would be like the cooperative communities of the future -- unless people choose while it still counts; unless they decide out of their own intelligence what to do, out of their own integrity, unforced.
So I say, choose while it still counts. Think about things, and do the right thing when you don't have to do it, because then you get to call it choice. If you have to do it, you no longer get to call it that. Choose before the guillotine of no choice comes down. Beat the timeline on that guillotine, to be able to say you chose.
Choose while it still counts. Choose while you have a choice in the matter. Choose out of your free will. Make your destiny a result of your sincere reflections and your true expression of your integrity in doing things that are optional, things that you did not have to do -- so that you can choose. Otherwise, everybody is waiting for choicelessness, everybody waiting to be forced. "I don't choose unless I have to." Well then you don't choose at all, Ace.
The significance of choosing
It's important to understand the emotional significance of choosing, both to the chosen, and to the chooser. It is dignity to choose. It is honor to be chosen. But a couple that comes together purely out of necessity has neither one: neither dignity nor honor. And a commune of necessity has neither one. And a world that adapts to effective living because of depleted resources has neither one. And a world that chooses the high way because the low way has so miserably failed has neither one. In fact, it has not chosen the high way: it was forced into it.
Choose for God and truth while it still counts. Then you have dignity, and God has honor. Knowing that you would like to be freely chosen, not chosen of necessity, choose God, and not of necessity. Not out of what I call "dental devotion" -- when one prays to God only when one is under stress: "If I survive this root canal, I will be a very good person from now on." And God says, "You only seem to look Me up when you're at the dentist." That's like cooperating only to survive. That's not for God; it's for you.
Don't you want your kid to come back home before he runs out of money? God loves it when you came back before you were down to your last dime. When you even got rich, maybe, and you left the money at the gate, and you went back to your father. Now, that feels right.
You can say to God in that case, "I don't need to love you. I could be a complete egomaniac. I could be a jerk. But I prefer you." And God says, "Great. I always feel better about these things when someone has other options to choose from."
It's so much better to choose, and let someone be chosen. Feel how the woman feels when she says: "He could have had any woman he wanted. But he choose me." Anybody can feel that; you don't need to be a philosopher for this. To be freely chosen, to freely choose -- these are things the heart knows as value.
So, choose while it still counts. Amen!
by David Truman
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