A Treatise on Choice
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night
Quite often, people write for the sake of writing and sometimes they churn out absolute nonsense (myself included). But then there are other people, like Seth Godin, who writes short, impactful blogs and essays that have a profound impact on your thinking. The question then arises… exactly how long should a piece of writing be? As long as it needs to be is the answer and I believe this piece written by Seán Brennan about ‘choice’ is exactly that. It’s short, concise and brilliant.
It’s 52 degrees outside, on a beautifully clear night in Orlando. I’m sitting in the hot tub drinking a beer and smoking a cigar; my idea of paradise. The hot tub makes it feel like 80 degrees so I sit on the edge and dangle my legs into the pool to cool off. It’s the second last night of a 10-day family holiday, which will be recorded in my memory as perfect. The fights will be glossed over, the hiccups forgotten. Everyone else has gone to bed; this is my time for contemplation.
With my two feet submerged in the pool there is barely a ripple on the surface. On this pristine patch of water any anomaly stands out, and I notice two. The first is a small piece of paper, a forgotten cigar wrapper perhaps. The second is a small insect. As I absentmindedly watch the piece of paper and the insect I’m struck by the idea that these two objects represent two opposite approaches that exist on the path of life, the passive and the active. The piece of paper floats along oblivious to its surroundings, going only where the current takes it, unable to alter its course. The insect on the other hand is struggling, flailing its legs in an effort to escape an untimely death. Fighting for its life it will continue struggling until it is exhausted.
Eventually both the insect and the piece of paper end up in the same place, the drain. In life, everyone ends up in the same place, the grave. In death people are remembered for the life they led. Did they accept the status quo and drift through life like the piece of paper? Or did they fight for the chance of a better life like the insect? – Seán Brennan