Going for the Gold

Why Do We Make the Choices We Do?

I was speaking with someone today, and he, having heard I had come here from California, asked the perennial question, 'But why do you live in Scotland?' I answered, 'Because I love it.' He didn't find that a satisfactory answer. He wanted reasons - not reasons for loving it, but reasons for living in Scotland. After a frustrating time spent talking at cross purposes, I realized that this is the true difference between 'conventional' life-styles and 'alternative' life-styles, which, I suppose, means anything that isn't conventional.
Then I had one of these little flashes of insight that we get sometimes. Those of us lucky enough and determined enough to be living lives that are deeply satisfying are doing what we love. This is not only in our work, but in other aspects of our lives as well.
If we live with other people, it's because we love them and want to be with them - not because we need them or because they need us or because we're afraid of being alone or because we're expected to have a partner. If we live alone, it's because we enjoy our own companionship and like having plenty of quality time with ourselves. Companions are enjoyed all the more because one has enough good time without them. If we live in Scotland or Nigeria or Alaska or on a boat or in a tree or in a suburban house or a city flat, it's because we love it, not because we are trying to conform to some standard set by other people.
People who do what they love may appear to others to be eccentric, but really they are just centered in themselves, which is not at all the same as being self-centered. In fact, people who are truly doing what they love in many aspects of their lives usually have an overflow of love for others. Because they feel fortunate and cherished, they reach out to others compassionately, lovingly. They don't need to be needed (which indicates an inner lack), but from an inner space of overflowing joy, they love to share.
So there are at least three ways to live:
a conventional life-style based on conditioning and focused on gaining approval (love) from others (which may be partly frustrating, partly satisfying);
an unconventional life-style as a reaction to trauma or inner pain (in which case one will probably be angry and frustrated), or
an alternative life-style doing what we love just because we love it, living in ever greater harmony with our own divine nature - and people around us are often touched, healed, harmonized by that joy.

A final thought . . .
As we go through life we make many decisions, and a lot of them are between something that looks secure and safe (but maybe a little boring) and something that looks interesting and exciting (but risky). When we make these choices, often a decision for security/safety makes us smaller. That may be because we justify it by believing that we had to do this because the world is so dangerous.
On the other hand, a decision for the more interesting (but perhaps perilous) choice often shows us that we can do more than we thought. It makes us realize that we are bigger than we believed.
When we make choices, this is a factor we might want to consider.

Copyright © 1995 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.
This originally appeared in Otherworld Arts, 1995
Your comments will be read with interest.

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