Each day of our lives we have two choices, and only one of them betters the world. One choice involves siding with our suffering and identifying with what ails us. The other choice involves siding with humanity and doing what produces the greatest possible benefit for all. You know this as well as I do. You have had difficult times, and you have gotten up and brushed off the dust, watching it float and disintegrate into the hollow air. But there have been times when you did not want to get up, times when the cool, hard floor felt like your only friend. And those were times that challenged you, that made you question your faith in humanity. But you did get up. You did lift your weary limbs, raise your heavy head, and find your place among the dust. Because we are just dust. We are just tiny specks floating through each others’ lives. And this can depress us — or it can amaze us in all of its kaleidoscopic, soaring glory. You are like me. In fact, you are me.
Let me explain.
We all have the same choices in life. We don’t all choose the same things, but we all have the same choices. If I get knocked, I can choose to get back up — and so can you. But if I get knocked down, I can also choose to stay down. I can choose to become the cool, hard floor — which sounds nice. At first. A floor is sturdy. A floor is supportive. A floor is a floor upon which we all can stand. But to be a floor is to be stood upon, and to be stood upon is to reside on the layers below, lying flat when others jump for joy. Lying dormant when others glide and ultimately soar.
Rewind the movie reel of your life. Do you like what you see? Were there moments that challenged you? Were there moments that forged you, like a red-hot iron within the fire? We all have these moments, but we only have two choices for how we respond. We can choose good, or we can choose bad. We always know the difference. We always know what is right, but we do not always choose it. And when we do not choose it, life chooses for us.
I had heart surgery several years ago. I hated it. I pitied myself. I thought, Why me? Why is this happening to me? When I came out of the surgery, intact and on the other side, I had a choice. Would I become my surgery? Would I let it define me? Or would I allow it propel me forward, like the intense, hot fire beneath a rocket that pushes it to the horizons.
I chose the right choice, but not without a fight. I wanted to be sick. I wanted to be pitied. It seemed the easier choice of the two. But is the the easier choice the better choice? Does it ever work that way?
No. No, it does not.
The harder choice is typically the right choice.
Rockets soar because there are many, many men and women who toil to allow them to soar. It all looks effortless, but it’s not. The effort you do not see is what makes it look effortless. The effort you do not want to put in, is what makes you look effortless. The time you put into yourself is what makes you come alive. And when you put in the effort to become alive each and every day, you make the choice. Life has its lightning storms that shock the earth and split the trees, severing it into splintered wood. And so are you, like splintered wood, like a divergence of something once sturdy, like something once intact, like what became before you, long before you were you. But to break apart is not to become unbeautiful; to break apart is to make a choice, each and every day, to be alive.