Welcome to A Life Examined

What is the examined life? A life worth living! As I look at the road ahead, I take all the baggage from the past and use it as experience - the pain and the passion, the sorrow and the joy - allowing it to carve wisdom into my mind and hope into my spirit.
There is no experience that can't be useful to me at some point in my life. There is no lesson learned that cannot make a contribution to the future.
A tiny drop of water is a part of the ocean. A tiny speck in the night sky is a ginormous star in the distance. It all depends on perspective.
So, this examined life is to offer reflections in the hope of discussing things which are of value to myself and to others.
Love, Sarah

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Choice versus Responsibility

My six year old loves to play the violin. Unfortunately, he doesn't very much like to practice. But to play well, and he does want to play well, one has to practice. So, my son's eleven year old cousin began to encourage him. "You'll be so glad you kept going when you are older and can play really well," she said to him. (Thank you Niece!) He acknowledged he likes to play and managed to distinguish between his reaction to my telling him to practice and his actual experience of playing. The next step for him was for him to discover that if he chooses when to practice he has more authority over his violin playing, more freedom, than if I tell him when it is time. It's fun to be able to choose. But his choice is not whether to practice but when. Responsibility is accepting you have to do something and choosing when to do it. My son is learning this.
We all need to learn the difference.
We all want the freedom to make our own choices, but we don't all know responsibility. Every choice carries with it a consequence. If we don't realize this we may be sorely disappointed with how our life turns out. As we choose responsibly our choices are less likely to come back and bite us... to learn to choose wisely is the key.
How do we use our freedom? How do we take the opportunities that come our way and make good choices, if indeed there is a difference between good and bad choices? I think the core is LOVE. If we think of ourselves we will become hedonists. If we consider others and what they will think of us we become fearful and anxious. But if we consider others out of love, respect and consideration for them, we will be better human beings and make an indelible mark on this society of ours. Taking responsibility for ourselves is the first lesson toward maturity. Much later comes responsibility to our family, community and world. If we love, we will not fail.
What is love? "Love is patient and kind, love doesn't seek itself, love is doesn't keep a record of wrongs. Love never fails." 1Corinthians 13 (paraphrased)
My little boy is learning to take responsibility to achieve his aims. He picked up his violin yesterday, after hearing his cousin and choosing to receive her encouragement and common sense, and he practiced. Occasionally he asked me what he should do, but he reviewed a few pieces with almost as much precision and definitely with more enthusiasm than when I lead the practice time. If he can learn to exercise responsibility, we his parents will give him more and more freedom, and he will experience great joy in growing up. Maturity is not the freedom to make choices, but rather, the ability to take responsibility for our desires, goals and aspirations and to work toward making them happen... all within a sphere of compassion and love. Ultimately, we are not responsible to please our parents and others or to act out their ambitions for us. But we are responsible to make a positive (rather than a negative) contribution toward society. Success is not measured by how well a skill is mastered, or even if it is mastered at all. Rather, success depends on our contribution to society. And whether it is through our efforts to achieve educational, monetary or artistic goals or simply by smiling to each passing stranger, we place our mark on our society by how well we demonstrate love. My son does not enjoy the violin because it is intricate and demanding of focus and attention. He enjoys it because of the music he can create. And as he continues and as he grows up, he will learn to share the music with others as an act of love toward them. By carrying with us an attitude to love, we make our society a warmer, less selfish and more inclusive society.
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