Monday, October 26, 2009

Different Paths

"There are many paths to enlightenment. Be sure to take one with a heart."
-Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher, author of the Tao Te Ching, founder of Taoism

This past weekend I made a big decision (please note I will not tell you what it was - get over it). I made a phone call, did the deed and hung up. That was supposed to be it. I was supposed to be able to walk away from what I did with no cause for alarm. But for the next two hours, my stomach wouldn't stop twisting itself into knots. I was helping a friend of mine assemble a futon and I couldn't concentrate during the simple act of screwing in a bolt, I was in such a daze. Something in my gut was telling me that I did something wrong, that this was something I would lose sleep over, that what I did was not the way things were actually supposed to be. For two hours I let this gut-wrenching continue until I decided to do something about it. I called back and undid the deed. I then proceeded to sleep like a baby.

For some reason, this brings to the forefront of my mind the concept of fate vs. free will. Which line of thinking is the truer?
  • Are we predestined at the moment of our birth with no way to alter our course?
  • Do the decisions we make along life's road alter our destiny, with different paths leading to different end-results based on our actions?
  • Or is there no such thing as predetermined results? Maybe free will, coincidence and luck govern our lives, all actions and reactions based solely on chance.
It's an age-old argument, and one I doubt this blog post will settle.

Why did I get that gut-wrenching feeling that I did something wrong, making me call a second time? I've said this before, but I'm a guy who goes with his gut. When faced with major life-altering decisions, many people make pros and cons lists, debating the benefits and drawbacks of one course of action over another. That's all well and good for the analytical sort, of which I tend not to be. If my gut tells me I should do something, I do it - the same goes for the negative form of that statement. This past weekend, my instincts were screaming at me that I had messed up. So I listened.

I'm a believer of the second above bullet point, myself. I believe there is such a thing as fate, although not necessarily holding to any religious, dogmatic perception of predestination. However, I think you can change your fate when life-altering turning points are encountered. Think of it as a path through a forest. You start off on one singular path, but along the way many paths branch off of that singular one, and even more off of those. The small, everyday decisions don't necessarily turn you down another way, but the big ones can change your course as surely as you were born: what college you attend, what jobs you take, how you treat your body, what friends you associate with, who you date, who you marry and so on and so forth.

The gut-wrenching feeling I got after I made that first phone call was an indicator to me that I should not have done what I did. That I pissed off the cosmos and altered my fate, but not for the better. Hence, the second phone call.

I am meant for something, just as you are. Maybe I'm fulfilling that "destiny" as I write this blog post, or as I drive to work every day, or as I talk to my girlfriend at night. Maybe I'm just ambling along toward it, not having fulfilled my full purpose. Regardless, I'm going to listen to my gut/heart/instincts - whatever you want to call it - and trust them to guide me along my journey.

And during the journey, I must continue telling myself to "be present."

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