Saturday, August 28, 2010

239 / Ballerina Or Brain Surgeon


I am doing a lot of reading as I travel around. Most recently, I am dipping into a novel by Colum McCann, Let The Great World Spin. The book begins with the following epigraph: 

All the lives we could live, all the people we will never know, never will be, they are everywhere. That is what the world is. 
Aleksandar Hemon The Lazarus Project

I keep insisting on the fact that the human world, the world we create, is the product of our own choices, freely made. There is nothing "inevitable" in the world we make. There is nothing "inevitable" about what we make of ourselves. No laws can mandate or require any particular configuration or result. The rules we use to "legislate the world," whether collectively, or on an individual level, are not descriptions of what "must be," but a prescription we write down to tell ourselves what it is that we want to do. 

From this perspective, the world "is," indeed, as Hemon says: "all the lives we could live, all the people we will never know, never will be." That is what the world "is" in its essence, and the essence of the world we create is "possibility." But this essential truth about the world - that the world "is" possibility at its core - includes a corollary truth. As we make choices, and create a life, or world, we leave behind the lives and the worlds that we did not choose. 

My way of saying this has always been that you can be a ballerina, or a brain surgeon. But never both. And at the end, I think it is wise to be grateful for whatever has come from the choices we made, instead of wishing for the choices we left behind.

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