On her blog, Undecided, Shannon Kelley states: “Choosing one thing means you’re killing the possibility of having the other. And when we’re raised on the idea that anything’s possible–and every option is available–we see choosing anything as settling. And, of course, it is–it’s settling for something less than everything.”
Which is true. Saying yes to one thing means saying to no to an unknown number of other things. This would not be a problem if we knew for sure what we wanted out of life. When you know what specific job, house, and friends you want it is easy to go and find them and make them yours.
But as Americans we have been told that we can have and be anything we want. So small children say they want to grow up and be soccer balls, birthday cakes, or hippopotamuses; and we laugh, say how cute, and know they will one day grow out of that belief. But these are logical decisions. They can be anything. No exclusions. We told them so. And then our young adults leave the confines of the education system and fall into depression or ADD because they can’t decide what job to focus on, what city to live in, and whether spending every day with the same group of people is worth their time.
These are worthwhile considerations. The world is a big place. There are lots of great ways to live.
I’ve been laughed at (in a kind-of, ‘oh how adorable’ sort of laugh) for wanting to do everything. I honest to God would enjoy a fulfilled, happy life as a bed and breakfast owner in Santa Fe, as a rancher in Montana, or as a shepherd in New Zealand. Those jobs would be AWESOME.
But you know, after I denied my humanity by dreaming my life away in high school, and after succumbing to anger at my humanity in college, and after the bargaining I did with the universe, and after the depression I found myself sucked into, I have no choice left but to accept. Accept the fact that we can’t do anything, be anything, have everything.
I have one life, one chance, one story. I can have a long story, yes. But only one. And while a choice to take a job, or rent a house, or even, gasp, get married means that there are other jobs, homes, or possible life endings that I cannot experience, I have to offer myself some grace and allow that possibility. As I’ve noted before, all we truly have in our lives is the opportunity to choose.
Yes, settling is a terrible word. However, living life in the world of what-ifs and dreams is a worse fate. And keeping options open unfairly strings along all the bosses, girlfriends, landlords, boyfriends, and adventures that we can’t commit to.
You can’t have it all, but you can make a choice. And live the hell out of the choice you make.
“How else is life made real, but by story and song and fiery dance?” Ahab’s Wife or The Star Gazer
I believe the best hope for moving forward from a serious conflict is found in the arts. Music and poetry and photography and painting. Watching films and plays and dances or participating in said outlets.
For they all are outlets. Each of these venues provide a path for people to express what otherwise is inexpressible.
This is how we teach the next generation to think for themselves. Through expression.
Check this out if you are truly interested in helping Rwanda move on.
“Trust me though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, [she] would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain.” The Book Thief
“And all the suffering that you’ve witnessed and the handprints on the wall, they remind you how it’s endless, how endlessly you fall. And then the answer that you’re seeking for the question that you’ve found, drives you further to confusion as you lose your sense of ground.”
Why does this drive us to confusion? Why do we get so frustrated when we can’t find answers, or don’t understand what is happening. After all, how many people actually do have answers; or understand the suffering; or can bear the pain day after day, year after year?
The beauty of humanity is the variety of worldviews, beliefs, and thought processes. (Whereas this can be frustrating when trying to communicate with someone who clearly is not on your “wavelength” these differences are a truth, a scientific law if you will.) And if we are all exercising the capability of thought, than we can present our differing views of the endless suffering and present personal attempts at answers and have enlightening discussions with one another on ways of surviving the confusion.
Basic human rights are frequently discussed in the academic and development aid world, often with words like “God-given right”. However, the only right actually given to man by God (according to Biblical records) is the right to choose. Initially given to choose which God you will follow (Joshua 24:15), this right boils down to the right of free will. You have the power to decide. Decide how you feel about a situation. Decide how you will react to the people around you. Decide what class to take, what program to participate in, what job to take, whom to marry, what food to eat. You do it. You decide. For yourself.
This past week I attended a healing and reconciliation workshop that As We Forgive Rwanda Initiative (AWFRI) conducted in a rural neighborhood on the outskirts of Kigali. These workshops are what define the work of AWFRI. The two men that comprise AWFRI write up their lesson plan and then teach whoever decides to show up for the three-day workshop. Lessons include reconstructing views on the definition of humans (humans being their personal character, which is influenced by personal history, rather than the words others use to define him or her) and accepting personal responsibility in-order to achieve forgiveness, reconciliation (with self and with others) and improvement in living conditions.
Such concepts are vital for a traumatized country to even think about healing. A country comprised primarily of illiterate men and women who work each day to merely survive are incredibly vulnerable to the ideas and words of leaders, and particularly of foreigners. This power is both awesome when applied to the lessons taught at the AWFRI workshops and unbelievably damaging when in the hands of emotional religious leaders (or angry local leaders—as seen by the power of radio shows in bringing about the genocide here). Given that the Pentecostal Church is the fastest growing church in both Africa and Latin America, it is not unlikely that masses of traumatized, vulnerable people are hearing messages that attribute poverty and HIV to sacrifices made to ancient, local gods, and the necessity of paying money (offering) to the local Christian church in-order to atone for those past sacrifices made to local gods.
I am everyday convinced that the only solution to development issues, or conflict reconciliation, or improving the standards of living—anywhere in the world—is education. Not an education that provides an understanding of English letters and basic arithmetic, but an education that encourages freethinking. It is essential that children learn how to think for themselves, so they have the ability to decide for themselves what paths will serve their interests.
So when you come up against a suffering, a pain, a question that seems unbearable, exercise that one God-given right of yours to make a decision. Forget whether it is right or wrong, just make the decision. The consequence will come and then you make a subsequent decision of how to react to this new question/suffering. Be confident in the fact that you have a logic-based education. You learned how to think. You are not vulnerable to whatever lesson may be thrown at you by your local pastor/leader/government official.