Margin Notes

By Will Baker

I believe that we define ourselves by the choices that we make. Even if at times these choices sometimes seem to be made for us. My regular readers know that I have recently been in the grips of a personal dilemma. And by the way, I feel very fortunate to have had so many folks read my work, and I should take this opportunity to thank you all. This on line essay project is about one year old, and I very much appreciate the comments that I have received, both pro and con, regarding what I have had to say during that time. Anyway, back to the choices that we make, and the ensuing changes in our lives that can sometimes arise as a result of them.

It seems to me that when one is confronted with a life changing experience, such as the death of a loved one, a crises of faith, or perhaps even the end of a relationship one does not come away unchanged. In fact, I would argue that as we go through each day, even each moment in fact, we undergo continuous change. However these changes can be quite subtle, even incremental when compared to the sweeping change that can sometimes accompany a life-changing event. I have recently undergone one such experience, and as I stand now on the other side, I am attempting to make some sense out of it. You see, I have come to the conclusion that my understanding of our place in the universe is in need of some revision.

Some time ago I developed the idea that, because our lives are so interdependent, the manner in which we treat each other is supremely important. For instance, on the physical level, pollution that originates in one region will most certainly have to be dealt with in another. And on the social level, the quality of the parenting that one provides to the children will have direct societal impacts. Yet I was unclear as to whether this interdependency extends to things spiritual. However, as a result of my recent experience, I am here to tell you that I believe that it does. But if I said that I know exactly how or why this is so, I would be a liar. Yet I am prepared to discuss what I have discovered, written in the margins of my experience.

On an intuitive level, many of us believe that there is more to life’s journey than meets the eye. And that after we die, life in some form and to some degree may continue for us. And many of us also believe that what we do with our lives, based upon the choices that we make, might very well effect this outcome. I recently became involved with an individual who, based upon my interactions with her, and the ensuing effects manifested as a result, I believe is at this very moment sharing this journey with me. And this reality has left us (her and me) with a very difficult choice: to impact the lives that we have made for ourselves by exploring the situation further, or, to just walk away while we shake our heads and attempt to figure it all out. And lest you think that this was an easy decision of the "no-brainer" variety, I should state clearly that it was not. We have walked away, but we are waiting for the "other shoe to fall." And that is a very unsettling feeling.

But I have come away from this whole thing with more than just an uncomfortable feeling to show for it. My observations related to this experience have given me the ability to say that, direct connections between individuals, beyond the physical and emotional levels can and do occur. And again, based on this experience I feel compelled to articulate the belief that these arrangements probably transcend what we experience and process as our day to day lives. The experience has also left me with much more than a mere suspicion, that "life" continues after death. In fact I am now inclined to believe that it exists even prior to birth. I also now am of the mind that, just as pollution can originate in one region, and effect another, depending upon the choices that we make, the same can be said of human incorporeality. And if this is true, then might not the inverse be true as well? In other words, it seems to me that, if enough folks become enlightened to this notion, a critical mass of goodness might very well be achieved. And human kind might make a gigantic leap to the next level of existence. However this could also be the very reason why, as a species set apart, we are having such a difficult time finding our way.

Yes, we define ourselves by the choices that we make. But what happens if, in good faith we make the wrong choice? It seems to me that when we make any decision, to a large extent we draw upon the sum total of what we have learned up until the decision point was reached. Therefore, the appropriateness of the decision is dependant upon the validity of the information that we have previously processed, including moral frameworks, social norms and the mind-set provided to us though the culturalization process that each of us undergoes. Well, I believe that the key statement here is "in good faith." Unfortunate things occur everyday as a result of good intentions, but I have a hard time believing that this could result in the type of karmic pollution that I alluded to above. But it would not be the ideal situation. And it certainly would not contribute to the type of enlightenment that we have been discussing. So where does that leave us?

Well for starters, in every moment we could try very hard to do no harm. And although that notion seems incredibly obvious, it seems to me that, given the conflicted nature of our existences, as we walk this earth, it might very well be the most difficult, yet important thing that we could hope to accomplish. And as we try to fulfill the requirements of this sometimes seemingly impossible task, we could hold tight to the notion that we are not alone. Perhaps life is like a huge "ropes course" where no one wins if everybody doesn’t get across. And this concept might very well help to ease the moments of "quiet desperation" that we sisters and brothers all feel from time to time as we try to make our way. And maybe we could acknowledge the beauty and love that we see all around us. For I now believe, more so than I ever have, that for as much pain and confusion that exists in our lives, there also exists at least as much truth and beauty…and yes, even moments of inspired clarity.


 (Essay Collection)