Two armies are poised for battle. Our hero falls to his knees at the impossibility of the choice: should he uphold his righteous claim to the throne and slay his enemy – who also happen to be his kin? Or shall he be killed and forsake his duty? Frozen by terrible consequences on all sides, he collapses and begs for guidance.
Arjuna’s battle in the Bhagavad Gita is a metaphor for the choices we face everyday. If we choose one path, we lose something. If we choose the other path, we also lose. There is no way to win.
As we get older, the simplicity of our childhood choices falters as we start to realize the world’s true complexity. There is no right way. There is no answer. Whichever way we choose, something gets taken away. Good mother, good career? Adventure, or stability? In each moment, we necessarily must cut ourselves off from a thousand other possibilities. Small choices in the past nudged us in one direction, and ten years later we find that small choice has thrown us onto another continent, another world, another life.
What if I’d bought that apartment? Stayed with that guy? Left that guy? Said fuck it that one time? What if I’d been more responsible and played it safer? What if?
Every path is bittersweet. I feel this truth so strongly right now because my fertile years will soon be exiting stage left. For the first time, time is imposing the brakes of real life consequences. The cumulation of choice is inescapable.
But here’s the thing.
This isn’t a problem.
No, my friends. As much as I may want to rail against and mourn the many paths I have not travelled, this bittersweet ache I feel is part of the tender beauty of being human. In each moment, we stand in the middle of our own compass, choosing our direction. And we do it again in the next moment, and the next. We have no right choice, we only have the artistry of this choice. And the next. A kaleidoscope of decisions that creates the tapestry of our lives. Fucked up, colourful, confused, full of inconsistency.
Making great art is rarely tidy or clean.
Our practice: Love this choice. Love this tapestry. With all your heart. With abandon and courage. Love your one, precious, and most remarkable life.
“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
Ah, thank you Nico Luce, for reminding me today of the story of the Bhagavad Gita.