Chance and Choice

20151121_160442A long time congregation member and reader of Jade wrote the following reflecting on the killings in Paris and her personal response.

The awful events in Paris on Friday evening became known to me as I snuggled down in bed with radio 4 on and then the news started coming in. My thoughts went to chance and choice, how the smallest change of mind and circumstance can lead to so many life changing events some good, some not so good. Overwhelming sadness for those killed and injured and for the perpetrators who believed so strongly that that was what they should do. This coming Wednesday my grand daughter’s class are going for a visit to Exeter mosque as part of their multi-cultural learning. At first there was a tiny amount of reluctance on my part but then I thought some parents might not like their children going to  a Buddhist temple. I’m just glad that there is a wider more open thinking now than when I was a child in Cornwall and had no idea of the faiths of other people.

Just the smallest movement; a last moment choice which has you not traveling a road. Saying or not saying  something that changes a life for good or ill. Agreeing, or not agreeing. Joining in, or walking away. But what is our guidance system? On what do we rely to steer through the day?

I was just talking to a monks here at Throssel. We remembered my father coming to visit who would, on arriving, habitually seek out the Reverend to admire his ‘handiwork’. One time he was working in a remote part of the monastery and sure enough my dad found him in no time. In an attic! I’d like to think my dad was exceptional but he wasn’t. Everyday each of us moves through clear thin air bumping into and moving around all sorts of things, people and situations. We make choices without consciously thinking about them, or aware a choice had been made. How was it my dad consistently found the Reverend when he frequently eluded members of the community?

Well I don’t think we can answer that question in a sentence. Chance and choice play their part along with conscious deliberation decisions, frequently involving rational thought – weighing up pros and cons. And then there is the mystery factor, that element in life when there is no rational explanation for how or why. Why some people phone consistently at an inconvenient time while others don’t. Why you were following a car that left the road and rolled down a bank. You called 911, sat with a critically injured passenger – while up above on the road your passenger directed traffic and kept everybody safe. Why a person who can act calmly in an emergency ends up on the scene of an accident.

And then there is the situation when a person is certain and acts on that, alone or with others, without wavering. Maybe there is a mystery factor involved here too, resulting in good or ill. However our living is played out on a vast stage set in uncountable time. Kalpas. And even knowing this we are called to act and respond now, best we know how.

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4 thoughts on “Chance and Choice”

  1. The best we know how. Interesting post at this time in my long life. When I typed the previous sentence, I misspelled life as lie, and is has given me pause to further reflect on the phrase ‘the best we know how.’ Why? To this end, and why I have come to accept the Buddha’s truth: because a good life can only be lived ‘the best we know how,’ and the Four Noble Truths are sound instruction for how to fashion a good and meaningful life. Today is for me one of those ‘red letter days’ in which choice about a new or different direction is paramount in my deliberations; and I truly realize that I must do the best I can in choosing. Be well. As a Canadian I am adept at keeping warm during winter, and so as I depart this cared space, I shall leave you with these immortal words known by all Canadians: always make sure you have mitts and a good scarf when you go outside…because you never know when it’s going to snow. Cheers.

    1. I’m on the road back to South Lakeland tomorrow. Clear sky and crisp. I hope your red letter day takes you to where it is ‘good’ to be. ‘Leaving this cared space’ sounds interesting. Wondering if you were referring to Jade, if so I like the expression because it mixes up the word cared especially since I try to avoid the word caring.

      When I was in Edmonton in one of those frigid winters (not so many of those these days) I was taught how to keep warm out doors. First dress in everything for outdoors and then stay in the house and get REALLY warm, then go. But this isn’t always practical if all you have to do is clear the sidewalk or put out garbage. But the wise person dresses up even for that. You never know when it’s going to snow and the door slams shut on you! I love Canada, the sub zero temperatures, the sun glinting off the snow. The blasting hot summer days in the interior of BC. I am glad you find Truths to live by in Buddhism, as I have. Much gratitude. Stay warm Gerry.

      1. Oops. Again, a strange error, one reason I write my stories by hand. The ‘cared’ apace was meant to be sacred space. Will touch base later and let you now get on with life. Be well, and I shall, as the Brits say, in another context, watch my ‘p’s and q’s’ in further conversation. Cheers, Gerry

  2. I was just saying to a friend over dinner last night (Saturday) that it’s so easy to have an idea of things being right and things going wrong, a sort of idealised way that a life should be, when the reality is that there’s no such perfect life and there’s a majesty in the way life copes with what unfolds. And still we have to take the next step often in unknowing.

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