The power of choice

The earth is hiring, dear one,
And you got the job.

What is the job of being human? The job of being squirrel seems quite straightforward: climb trees, find nuts, bury nuts, and make baby squirrels that can find and bury nuts. Ants seem to have a pretty clear job, too: dig holes, crawl around and find this and that to eat, and make baby ants. So it goes in the animal world, except for one unusual case: people.

People, it seems, are the only ones who don’t show up on earth with ready-made jobs and the inherited talents to do them. Accordingly, we make up jobs as suits our individual needs and the needs of others.

All animals display basic awareness and instinct, but the unique quality of being human is that we are fully self-conscious; we think therefore we are (we think). And because we think, we think about what to do and find ourselves confronting choice. Because they are as plentiful as our imaginations, which are plentiful, indeed, we are faced daily with a great many choices. Accordingly, as we accept or reject the options constantly before us, our great challenge is in understanding exactly what each situation demands of us; what is best and what is not. The nature of our moral and ethical framework in large part determines our actions, and our actions then create new choices for us and others. This is why what we choose to do matters.

For people in modern society, accepting and rejecting is the basis of our economy, and to many it appears that nowadays our primary job has been to shop. Our other jobs, the ones we use to make money, support our shopping job. Yet whatever satisfaction we gain from shopping is short-lived; we must keep shopping for our pleasure-inducing endorphins to flow. Like eager squirrels, we search out new treasures to hoard, even though we will lose interest in them quickly. The media tries to pump us up, of course, to keep us hooked on shopping, but in tough economic times like these, we have no choice but to go cold-turkey while we break our shopping habit.

Deprived of shopping, what will we choose to do? We can become depressed, angry and bitter, blame others for our problems – increase our self-centeredness and greed. It’s a choice. But greed, as we all can plainly see, is a lousy organizing principle in society or in one’s personal life. Like shopping, it too can become an addiction, something done for its own sake. Gratefully, we are human and we can choose otherwise. We can choose to be generous, even far more generous than we have ever been before.

The earth and its inhabitants need an awful lot of help, in ways too numerous to mention. If you are looking for a simple way to be generous, begin in your kitchen. If you’re like me you have cans and packages of food that have been sitting around forever. Donate them to Meals on Wheels or some other group that feeds the hungry. It’s a small start, but a good choice.

If there is any surefire way to help soothe our withdrawal from shopping, it is to choose to help others.