Sorry for the blog silence! We’ve had a strange virus going around the family, giving us all fevers and aches and speckly red rashes… no clue what it was but it seems fairly short-lived, and as the last one to get it I’m just riding out the tail end now.
I’ve been thinking about the way people make decisions, especially big decisions about identity, direction, and belief. I don’t think most of us pursue truth to the bitter end, without compromise; we don’t typically have the time, resources, or knowledge to do so in matters of theology, history, or ontology, even when we want our choices and beliefs to be founded in the truth. We end up choosing voices to listen to, people to trust, ideas to swallow whole, because we have to start somewhere.
Sometimes we just run with the ideas and values we were raised with, never questioning them, because they fit our lives or personalities fairly well and the effort to challenge or change them wouldn’t be worth the personal upheaval. Other times we run as far as possible from the beliefs of our parents, perhaps out of a desire to be different or independent, perhaps because our innate differences from our parents make their choices fit uncomfortably on our shoulders. Still other times we simply drift away from those ideas as we surround ourselves with voices speaking other messages, other opinions, other claimants to truth, and imbibe their messages without consciously realizing that’s what we’re doing.
I think too that our emotions often play a much larger role in decisions about what to believe and who to become than we care to admit. An intense feeling, an overwhelming emotion, an enduring obsessive irrational thought, or a powerfully moving event can influence us very strongly, no matter what we previously or rationally believe to be true or reasonable. Complicating it further, we have to decide whether or not, or to what extent, we will trust those emotional urges in our decision-making! We are emotional as well as rational beings, after all – but a life directed by emotion tends to end in poor impulsive choices and self-destruction.
And then, once a decision has been reached, how does one remain open-minded to new arguments, sensitive to the potential for error, while still living fully and passionately into the identity and purpose that have been decided upon? One the one side is apathy, the paralysis of indecision or the fear of making a mistake; on the other side is intolerance, bigotry, and irrational obstinacy. In the middle is the person fully alive, owning the choices he has made and honestly, completely, living them out – but ready to change direction with just as much passion and drive if convinced that the truth lies another way than he had thought before.