I should be able to get what I want – right? At first glance, getting what I want sounds to me like the embodiment of the “Canadian Dream” (Of course, in the USA, it’s called the “American Dream”). After all, don’t I believe that I should have freedom? Who is it out there in this big old world that has the right to deny me of my personal right to get whatever I want in life – and out of life? Why do consequences often block my personal pursuit of happiness? Why can’t I just do what I want and have it be OK with everyone?
I have pondered these questions, as perhaps you too have pondered them. I find the questions to be intriguing. And I sometimes find them to be much more complicated than I’d like them to be.
A great many years ago, my associate Wade B. and I were discussing consequences, personal choice and religion. (A brain-full to say the least!) At the time, I was only 20 years old and Wade was 21, but we had a mature, adult moment that seemed to go beyond the wisdom of our young years. Wade and I talked about how all religions, when considered in combination, promoted a vast variety of beliefs – some the same, some only similar and some very different. We considered how some people felt that religion was restrictive, mind numbing and even claustrophobic. Some people seemed to be saying, “We want to keep on doing whatever we want - but we want to be able to get different consequences”.
Wade expressed concerned discouragement over the fact that there seemed to be an undercurrent, in some members of society around us, of opting out of formal religion and following their own personal belief systems – a personal, informal religious affiliation of one if you will. I agreed. The problem I saw with this personal religious affiliation of one idea was with the practice. After all, how do I settle on an appropriate personal code of conduct if my exclusive creative force is to allow me to do whatever I want and have it be OK? Even at age 20, the notion sounded rather selfish and self serving - not to mention arrogant.
Wade and I agreed, as you may also agree, that every human being will eventually settle themselves on a personal belief system and then at least try to live by it. Wade then, in complete facetiousness, offered a funny idea, but in the thirty years that have past since I heard it, I have often thought that he was onto something quite thought provoking. Wade jokingly suggested that we start a new church that would seem to meet the needs of all the folks who wanted to do whatever they wanted to do without the associated consequences – a personal religion outside of formal religion – a personal religious affiliation of one. Wade called his make-believe religion “The Third Church of the Stillborn Again”.
“And what is it‘s doctrine?” I innocently asked.
“If it feels good do it.”
“Wow!” I said. Does this church believe in baptism? Wade grinned and said, “If it feels good do it.”
”How about repentance of sins?”
“If it feels good do it.”
“Loving your neighbour?”
Wade grinned some more and said, “If it feels good do it.”
I laughed – we laughed together, but in the years since, I have often reflected on that day – sometimes with a smile and sometimes more seriously.
As my life has progressed, I have learned to like consequences more and more. I have learned that each and every action has a predictable reaction – a natural consequence that I may or may not like. I can always count on consequence. I have learned that while I can defer the arrival of a consequence of one or more of my actions, I will eventually have to pay the piper his full due – and if I defer, the price is usually higher. I have learned that my life goes better if I stop resisting natural law and just make choices based on their consequences. This is a no-brainer for some of you, but it took me a while to get to this spot in life – and I’m still working at staying here.
And so I return to my first question, “I should be able to get what I want – right?” My answer is “Yes!” - but I must make the choices that will ensure I arrive at my wanted destination. I have to base my focus on the results I want, not on whether something feels good at the time, or whether something is convenient, or whether taking the course of least resistance beckons to me with fair promises of success. Easy Street, in reality, is an overgrown dirt lane with vacant, weed-infested lots and not one liveable house in sight. If I am to get what I want, I have to think ahead. I have to plan my work and work my plan. I have to consider the complete consequence, not just the parts I like. I cannot cheat my way to a permanent positive result – no one ever has and I personally think that no one ever will (except on television - of course). A temporary high sounds more like an addiction than lasting happiness – you know, live for today and who cares about tomorrow. I think that it takes work to be happy – no surprise for some of you, but it was for me.
And here’s one final thought from the peanut gallery… I smiled a few days ago when I heard a friend’s definition of insanity – “Insanity is to keep on doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.”
Now all I have to do is live by this wisdom!!! I will try, but it might be a while before I get my life to work as perfectly as my faithful bootlaces.