“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
- Robert Frost
I have always romanticized the idea of choice and marveled at how different choices could have a different impact on our lives. Romanticized is the word, as I never had any proof about one option being the good one, and the other a bad one. Life doesn’t have a built-in A/B testing function.
I have always wanted to believe in some higher power, the interconnectedness of the universe, of souls. I wanted to believe that all that is happening around us is not something random, there is a reason, there is a masterplan behind it. I didn’t want to figure out who or what is behind it all if it is God or some kind of a god, fate, destiny, universe. Our lives are so very complex that it cannot be a happenstance only that we are here and this is happening to us here and now.
There has to be something out there knowing it better than we do.
Woland explains this brilliantly to Berlioz in Bulgakov’s The Master and Marguerite. The reason for there needing to be a higher power.
– But here is a question that is troubling me: if there is no God, then, one may ask, who governs human life and, in general, the whole order of things on earth?
– Man governs it himself, — Homeless angrily hastened to reply to this admittedly none-too-clear question.
– Pardon me, — the stranger responded gently, — but in order to govern, one needs, after all, to have a precise plan for a certain, at least somewhat decent, length of time. Allow me to ask you, then, how can man govern, if he is not only deprived of the opportunity of making a plan for at least some ridiculously short period, well, say, a thousand years, but cannot even vouch for his own tomorrow?
The higher power is within our minds.
I do believe in God. And I believe that there is a bigger structure that we fit in. Ad it’s amazing and it’s immense and it’s incomprehensible. And humbling — to think about how small we are.
But thinking about our everyday lives I don’t think it works the way religions and institutions tell us. Life in itself is a miracle and the chance encounters that happen, the people we meet, the children we get — they shape our lives immensely. Faith is helping us to get through life easier, it anchors us, it guides us — just like norms and laws do, only faith guides on an emotional level.
But what we call signs and guidance from a higher power, are usually signs that our minds are creating.
If you are waiting for a sign, it is a sign already. The impatience, the frustration that seems inexplicable or without reason could be a sign that you are ready to move on and ready to take the next step to the next level.
Urges, instincts, gut-feelings are signs to push you toward something that you want. In so many cases we miss on our own instincts because it is just a feeling. If something feels wrong to do, then it probably isn’t the best choice.
We ignore huge red flags and internal screaming voices because we are so focused on what we consciously want that we ignore how we feel about it.
There are signs in the form of people, words, songs, anything. The reason for this is that we are tuned to several themes at certain times of our lives, so we notice more of what we look for and we attribute a greater significance to it. And it’s perfectly okay because this is how we guide ourselves towards our unspoken wishes.
Does everything happen for a reason?
I don’t think so. I don’t believe that there was any reason for my abusive experiences. They made me stronger, but it is still no reason for it. Or I don’t believe that a child dying from cancer happens for a reason — because tell me what was the reason for that?
I believe that the world is not designed to serve our needs and desires, only we can do that, and it is our task to make the best of our worst experiences too.
It’s not the reason, it’s how we cope with it later on — because our brains need to rewrite the negative stories for survival.
We are always looking for a reason, yet we forget that even if we are looking at the bigger picture, the picture we can see will never be the big picture. We make decisions based on what we feel and know at a certain moment in time, and in order not to go insane this is perfect this way. If you’d try to calculate in everything that you don’t even know about, no decision would ever be made. And we don’t have that much time.
Making good decisions is a struggle.
We need to accept that we cannot control everything. And we still need to do our best to manage our lives and make grounded and reasonable decisions. We also need to accept that we have no idea whether a seemingly good decision is good or not.
Consciousness is a good thing. But what is even better is to know and accept that sometimes we make decisions based mostly on reasons, and other times mostly on emotions. And in a lot of cases, we make our decisions based on emotions, but we post-rationalize them and it leaves us thinking that we made the rational choice.
We all want to make good decisions — it’s a universal wish and a universal struggle. We struggle in making them, we suffer from the options, the weight of the dilemma. We are torn by what-ifs.
When you are torn by not being able to make a good decision, think about this:
We have just this one life, this one that we know about and what we are conscious about — at least, for the time being, we don’t have access to parallel universes, where different decisions lead to different paths. Therefore we will never know how another decision would have turned out — we can guess, we can second guess, but eventually…
…we need to accept that a good decision is one that was made consciously, believing in it, believing that there, at that point in time that option was the best choice.
And we need to forgive ourselves if with a later knowledge, looking back, we would have made a different decision. After all, we’re only human.