Decisions and Discipline

What makes us truly human? Or, put another way, what makes us different from all the other animals out there? (I see no need to explore what makes people different from avocados.) There certainly seem to be an overwhelming number of similarities; the differences are very few, but are they also significant? Since my goldfish has a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face, I’m going to assume that the differences are significant. Besides, I’m the one writing this.

Fine. What are those differences? Inquiring minds want to know, dontchaknow? The two biggies, methinks, are the abilities to make decisions not based on the moment and the discipline to enact those decisions. Things like: no, I don’t want another helping of lima beans, I want to save room for blueberry pie. You know: important stuff.

‘Course, then there’s “identity.” Don’t suppose the dozen or so King Charles Cavaliers in the puppy mill next door quite understand why I don’t just adore their incessant chatter? But, strictly on the mano-a-mano level, I think there really are things about people that really are important and things that really aren’t. Which is why I am sorry that so many people I care about have abandoned letter-writing and adopted “social media” to share their lives. I should thank Facebook for all the photos my niece has posted of her two coast-to-coast trips this summer. I don’t think I will be so grateful for all the “idiotic prattle” that gets posted (and thanks to an old girl friend for accusing me of “idiotic prattle”; think she’d be happy to see I am still slinging the same old swill?)

Ah, so that is “self-discipline”? As opposed to the “I’m just sayin’” excuse for lack of self-control that seems to be an extension of Flip Wilson’s “the devil made me do it.” And, yes, I will just cleverly slip that in and not go off on a rant about the “inherent goodness of human beings.” Not this time. (So, you can heave a heavy sigh of relief. Just this once.)

So, why are decisions so damnably difficult? Part of it has to do with survival. Yeah, just staying alive. If we didn’t have some part of our brain tuned to the “What’s New?” channel we would quickly become food – we are already targets. So, we do need awareness of what is outside of our own comfort zone; but we also need to filter that awareness so that we obsess about the right things. And yeah, that begs the question of what are the “right things”? But, that includes the what as well as the why (not so much of a tangent as a four-lane off ramp). Let’s leave it as: “you get to decide”, ok?

Ah, the D-word, again. Decide. Pretty much, you have to move along Life’s road, you have to be able to sense the fork in the road, and fortunately, we can thank Yogi Berra for insisting that we take the fork. Or, we can choose to not decide, and stand there, and get run over. But, obviously, that was a decision. So, Life is all about making decisions?

Ah, yeah.

What do you do after the decision? That’s where discipline comes in. Discipline is the choice (“choice” is just a synonym for “decision”; but you already knew that, right?) to prove our decision wasn’t just an opinion. It is the chance to accomplish something, other than merely breathing, eating and fornicating (although, for some people, the order might be different). But, don’t all living things do those? Well, if they didn’t there wouldn’t be anything around to read about ‘em. So, we humans can decide to be just like all other living things, or we can decide to be different – from avocados, as well as other humans. We can be the same and just stare at the fork in the road until we get run over, or until the mass of lemmings pushes along the path that Robert Frost did not take. Or, we can be truly human and think about the consequences of our decisions (pretty frightening, huh?) and then do what we think is the right thing, or the best thing to do. You know: stand up on our hind legs and take responsibility for our actions.

Responsibility? Where did that come from? I think I’d rather be an avocado.

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