The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Paradox of Personal Choice

One of the prevailing mantras of our time is that we all have choices, and that if we make the right choices then our lives will evolve accordingly. As with many things in life this is both right and wrong.  It is true and untrue.  The reality lies somewhere in the murky haze between correct and incorrect.

We do have choices, and we are able to make them every moment of our lives.  Our choices are based on what we know at the time, what our past experience has been and whether we are in a frame of mind to keep making the same choice as previously or whether we wish to try something different.  Some choices are conscious, others less so.  All our actions are based on choices, whether we realise it or not.

However, the mantra of personal choice is a paradox.  We have personal choice, but we do not have control over our reality.  The “I have choices, I create my reality” mantra has at least two shortcomings.  1. It needs to acknowledge our inter-connection with others, and 2.  It needs to understand that we cannot control outcomes.  Both of these shortcomings are connected.

Inter-connection

When we think that our choices can create our reality we ignore the fact that every other being (human and otherwise) is also making choices.  When we encounter someone we may choose to encounter that person with cheerfulness and the desire to enter into an harmonious discussion.  But, he or she, may not be in such a receptive mood and their choice may be to ignore you, or worse still, punch you.  I know that this is a pretty dismal example, but the extremity of it is used to show the problem with believing that we create our reality entirely through our own individual choices.  In this case, you may walk away from the encounter still with your cheerfulness intact.  However, you may now also have a bloody nose, and that is possibly not the reality you wished to create.  But you chose.  So did the other person.  And in the moment of contact between the two of you reality was created.

As human beings we are intimately connected, none of us is completely self-enclosed, self-determining, self-sufficient.  The choices that each and every one of us are making throughout our lives can be thought of as small sources of energy.  Collectively, those sources of energy go towards creating the wondrous and emergent reality that is our world.  None of us can take sole credit for any part of it.  Nor can we blame any one person for those aspects that we don’t like or don’t want.  The reality we live and breathe arises from the continuous interplay of all our individual choices.  We could call it the Dance of Life.

Furthermore, we ignore the fact that non-sentient matter and energy is also “making choices.”  What do I mean by that?  Think of something as simple as the weather.  Every day when we arise in the morning the weather has already “decided” what it is going to do.  It may have “decided” to rain, it may have “decided” to be blustery.  Maybe the “decision” is to be a beautiful, clear, warm, sunny day.  Whatever the weather is, that has already affected the decisions we make.  Do we put on warm clothing?  Do we take an umbrella and raincoat with us? 

The Ego and Control

Our ego wants to be in control, or at least think that it is in control.  Freud likened the ego to “a man (sic) on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse,” with the horse being the id.

Of course we need our ego in order to function as human beings, but we need also to realise when the ego gets in the way of our understanding how things work and how much control we really have.  I create  my reality is often another way of saying I control my destiny.  The difficulty comes in the “I.”  In many ways there is no inseparable, self-contained “I.”  The “I” is a self-referring construction of our own mind and ignores the inter-connection between everything as discussed above.

The desire for control can arguably be viewed as the source of many of the problems that we face both individually and collectively.  We learn this misguided lesson early in life.  How many of us grew up within families where there were very definite control mechanisms playing out.  Father controlled the finances.  Mother controlled what was eaten.  Teachers controlled what was taught.  Older siblings controlled what was being played.  The clock on the wall “controlled” what time we went to bed.  These examples should not be read as having inherent rights or wrongs – only that the concept of control is instilled in us from a very early age.

We must transcend our desire for control.

Making Butterfly Choices

Does this mean that we resign ourselves to fatalism?  Does it mean that our personal choices are worthless?  Not at all.  All that this discussion is attempting to suggest is that reality is co-created, and that each and every one of us have an unique, even vital, role in that co-creation.  We are all like butterflies, flapping our wings over the Amazonian jungle.  None of us can ever know whether it is our flapping wings that set off the thunderstorm over Tokyo.1

Chaos Theory tells us that massive outcomes can be set off by the smallest of inputs.  Our individual choice may be one of those small inputs.  Equally, it may not be.  But let us not fall into the ego trap of believing that the outcomes of our individual choices are not influenced by hundreds (possibly thousands) of other people, other sentient beings, and our environment.  We must learn to live with the paradox.

Note:

1. This is a reference to the Butterfly Effect in Chaos Theory.  The Butterfly Effect says that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can set off a thunderstorm in another part of the world.

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